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G-8 summit: US$60-billion aid package to combat HIV/AIDs in Africa

Germany’s development minister said Friday that members of the Group of Eight had agreed on a program worth more than US$60 billion (EUR44.5 billion) to combat the spread of HIV/AIDs in Africa.

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul made the announcement on state ZDF television before G-8 leaders sat down with African and international officials to discuss African issues.

Wieczorek-Zeul said the money was earmarked for fighting malaria and tuberculosis, as well as HIV/AIDS and about half of it would come from the United States, with Germany contributing EUR4 billion (US$5.4 billion) between now and 2015.

"The situation (in Africa) is simply so dramatic," she said in Berlin.

Proponents of debt relief in Africa and other social activists have criticized the world's leading industrial nations for failing to live up to promises made two years ago at the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

On Thursday, musician and social activist Bono told a crowd attending a protest concert in nearby Rostock that he had a "very tough meeting" with Chancellor Angela Merkel and was convinced, at one point, he might have to throw in the towel.

Music producer Bob Geldof said the U2 singer - with whom he has turned aid to Africa a global campaign - became depressed during their meeting with Merkel. Geldof said the German chancellor was talking about sending only EUR700 million (US$940 million) to Africa, instead of the EUR1.5 billion (US$2 billion) they believe is needed.

But Geldof said he was hopeful that Merkel, who on Thursday announced an agreement among the G-8 on climate change, could persuade leaders to act on Africa.

The 2005 G-8 summit called for increasing the amount of aid to US$50 billion (EUR37 billion) a year through 2010, with half of that going to Africa itself.

But since then, the pledge has fallen short, with the amount pledged set to miss its target by US$30 billion (EUR22.2 billion), anti-poverty and aid groups said. They singled out Canada and Italy for scorn for what one official said was an attempt to keep a renewed call for African aid off the G-8 communique this year.

Africa was on the agenda of Friday's meetings in the resort of Heiligendamm of G-8 heads of state and international officials. Activists say they will be looking for a renewed commitment to the continent.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Italy, which owes EUR260 million (US$351.34 million) and did not pay in 2006 and 2007, has pledged to pay that amount and would increase aid spending to EUR400 million (US$540.52 million) next year.

Japan has also signaled that it would not block any language in the final communique on targets to increase aid, combat AIDS and provide for more education in Africa.