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    Stars Say Thanks For Aid Boost

    Celebrities including U2 singer Bono, Coldplay's Chris Martin, actor Jude Law and Live Aid founder Bob Geldof joined aid charities in a public thank you to the Government for promising to boost Britain's aid for poorer countries.


    In his spending review last month, Chancellor Gordon Brown announced that official development assistance would increase to A£6.5 billion - 0.47% of national income - by 2007, and reaffirmed the Government's aim of meeting the United Nations target of 0.7% by 2013.


    In their open letter, the celebrities and aid workers congratulated the Chancellor and Prime Minister Tony Blair on the move, which they estimated could provide clean water for 14 million people, educate 2 million children or avert the premature death of up to 250,000 infants.


    Britain wants to make tackling world poverty a key theme of its presidencies of the EU and the G8 group of industrialised nations next year. The commitment to boost its aid budget will give it greater moral authority in pressing other rich countries like Japan and the USA to meet the UN target.


    The letter, for publication in The Independent, read: "It's unfashionable to congratulate politicians in public but we're going to do it anyway, to say thanks for increasing the funds available to tackle world poverty now and for committing to reach the UN aid-giving target by 2013 at the latest. Thousands of people campaigned, and you responded, and lives in the poorest parts of the world will be transformed as a result. Whatever our other disagreements, the impact of this achievement should be celebrated."


    Also signing the letter were actors Minnie Driver, Colin Firth, Helen Mirren, Michelle Collins, Joseph Fiennes and Tony Robinson, screenwriter Richard Curtis, designer Katharine Hamnett, author Ben Okri, businesswoman Anita Roddick and Unicef ambassadors Jemima Khan and Sir Roger Moore. The letter was backed by six of Britain's leading aid charities: Data, Oxfam, Plan UK, Tearfund, Unicef UK and WaterAid.


    Oxfam policy director Justin Forsyth said: "The increase in aid has set the ground for a major breakthrough at next year's G8. However the fight against poverty will only be won through continued public pressure and genuine commitment from world leaders."

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