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Defense Secretary Gates, Bono Discuss Africa

The Pentagon said Wednesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with the Irish rock star Bono on Tuesday for a short discussion of aid for Africa. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed the private meeting on Tuesday, first reported by the Washington Post.

"They met about 20 minutes yesterday [Tuesday] afternoon in the secretary's office, discussed, as I shared with you, Africa, everything from AFRICOM to the president's AIDS initiative," he said.

Some aid groups have expressed concern that the creation of a new U.S. military command for Africa, AFRICOM, could result in a more military approach in U.S. policy toward the continent. But U.S. officials say that will not happen. They say the command will provide better coordination for military training and humanitarian operations, and will focus on helping U.S. government agencies provide assistance in a variety of civilian fields.

The press secretary could not say whether Bono raised that concern with Secretary Gates, but he says they discussed what he called "a shared desire to see greater civilian participation in tackling" the region's problems.

Morrell says the two men also discussed a speech Secretary Gates gave in November, in which he called for "a dramatic increase" in U.S. government spending on "the civilian instruments of national security," which the secretary defined as "diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development."

Morrell says Bono and Secretary Gates discussed what type of civilian efforts can be brought to bear to help Africa.

Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2, has become a prominent activist for African causes in recent years, and has met with numerous world leaders, including President Bush.