Bono, Clinton Push for Debt Relief

Like the old adage says, "politics makes strange bedfellows." Case in point? Monday, U2 leader Bono was in Washington, D.C., seated at a table alongside President Clinton and Christian conservative leader Pat Robertson, once again pleading with Congress to approve $435 million to cut the debt of the world's poorest nations.

The unlikely White House summit was assembled by the president in an attempt to sway the Republican-led Congress to fund the U.S. share of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, which aims to write off up to $90 billion in debts held by 41 countries.

"The money that [impoverished nations] want to spend on hospitals and health care and schools, they're sending to the United States and Europe on interest payments," said Bono, a key proponent of the Jubilee 2000 campaign, after the meeting. "It's kind of a no-brainer."

But to date, the House of Representatives and the Senate have balked at appropriating the full amount of the U.S. share. Instead, the House has set aside some $225 million and the Senate just $75 million in two different versions of foreign aid bills that have yet to be reconciled.

The president noted that the joining of such disparate forces on behalf of a common cause reflected the "depth and breadth of commitment of congressional, religious, and civic leaders to convince Congress to appropriate the entire $435 million we pledged in debt relief. It's not often we have a chance to do something that economists tell us is a financial imperative and religious leaders say is a moral imperative."

Meanwhile, Bono and his bandmates in U2 have been generating headlines for unwittingly keeping company with a different type of political dissenter last week — a convicted IRA terrorist acted as a bodyguard during the group's filming of a TV appearance on the roof of the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, Ireland, on Wednesday, Sept. 27.

John Noonan, who served five years in prison after being convicted of firearms offenses in the '70s, served as head of security during the shooting of a Top of the Pops appearance. U2, well known for its anti-violence stance, has criticized the IRA in the past. The convicted terrorist was shown on television and in press photos ushering Bono into the Clarence on Wednesday.

Noonan was hired by an independent production company, Dreamchaser, and not by the band. Executives from the company expressed astonishment that Noonan, who had been hired to look after location vehicles, had been in such close quarters to Bono. "He should have been minding the trucks out back," Dreamchaser's Ned O'Hanlan told U.K. music tabloid NME.