Harper says meeting Bono isn't his 'shtick'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper snubbed U2 singer and activist Bono at the G8 summit, saying he is too busy to discuss the African AIDS crisis with him.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper snubbed U2 singer and activist Bono at the G8 summit, saying he is too busy to discuss the African AIDS crisis with him.

"My priority here this week is to meet with other leaders," Harper told reporters in Heiligendamm, Germany, where the summit is being held.

"Meeting celebrities isn't my shtick," he added. "That was the shtick of the previous guy."

By the "previous guy," Harper was referring to former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, who met with Bono several times.

Bono, the Irish rock star who has built a reputation as an AIDS activist,had made a number of requests to meet with Harper to talk about Canada's contribution tofighting the spread of HIV and AIDS in Africa, according to reports.

Bonoalready met with U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany on Wednesday to discuss the contributions of their countries.

Harpersaid he would be happy tospeak with Bono, some time after the three-day summit ends on Friday.

"I have spoken to him on the phone before," Harper said. "I was very impressed. He was a knowledgeable guy. I think he's sincere on what he's trying to do."

Harperadded that he is a "big U2 fan," just as he's a big Beatles fan.

Geldof, Bono dedicate Beatles song to PM

Earlier in the week, Irish humanitarian and musician Bob Geldof accused Canada of blocking a new deal to set aid targets for Africa.

He continued his criticism on Thursday, saying the Canadian delegation came to the summit with a "negative attitude.

"I don't care what [Harper] says —I saw in the papers they denied this —they actively blocked other governments putting real figures on the communique," said Geldof, who didn't explain how he got that information.

He said Italy and Japan have backtracked on their initial opposition to setting real aid figures on the final draft, but Canada remains opposed.

"Don't turn around to the poor of the world, whom you're already promised the money to, and say, 'Not this year pal,'" said an agitated Geldof.

The former singer of the Boomtown Rats said he and Bono will dedicate a song to Harper during a concert later Thursday in Rostock, near the G8 site.

"The song we picked is one of Harper's favourites, the Beatles' Carry That Weight," said Geldof, who said the song's lyrics include the phrase, 'You never give me your money.'"

Thegovernment has countered that it is leading the entire G8 in keeping promises made at the 2005 summit in Scotland. At the time, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States agreed to double aid to Africa by 2010.

Buckler said Wednesday that Canada was on track to meet its commitment to double aid to Africa, ahead of other G8 countries.

The federal government also recently announced a multimillion-dollar joint project with Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates to research an AIDS vaccine.

With files from the Canadian Press