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From Reuters.

AWASSA, Ethiopia (Reuters) – Live Aid founder Bob Geldof shocked the international aid community on Wednesday by praising President Bush’s administration as one of Africa’s best friends in their fight against AIDS and famine.

Bush on Tuesday signed into law a $15 billion plan to help fund the fight against AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, a move which aid agencies welcomed.

“That is extremely radical and welcoming…and will take the fight against AIDS to new heights,” Geldof told reporters.

The Irish musician and activist said Bush’s predecessor Bill Clinton talked passionately about Africa, but had done little, while the European Union had provided a “pathetic and appalling” response to the continent’s humanitarian crisis.

Geldof, who staged the world’s biggest rock concert to help Africa’s starving in 1985, made his comments after visiting drought-affected people in several child-feeding centers in Awassa, southern Ethiopia.

Aid agencies estimate 14 million Ethiopians are at risk of starvation after the worst drought in nearly two decades. HIV/AIDS has made the country’s plight even worse.

In Ethiopia on a five-day trip, Geldof urged international donors to respond before the situation becomes catastrophic.

“The situation is worse than I expected,” he said, grabbing an emaciated child from the arms its mother.

“We are condemning the drought-affected people to death.”

Aid agencies say international donors had been slow in responding to an appeal for food aid for Ethiopia.

The Rome-based World Food Program (WFP), the world’s biggest food aid agency, said on Wednesday it faced a “substantial shortfall” of some 230,000 tons toward its requirements for Ethiopia of 619,000 tons in 2003.

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