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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Bono ‘starstruck’ by visiting ‘Lady’

Irish rock star Bono of the legendary band U2 was the latest celebrity to travel to Oslo on Monday, to attend a Foreign Ministry-sponsored peace forum and escort its own star attraction, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, back to Ireland with him. He claimed he was “starstruck” in “The Lady’s” presence.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and rock star Bono attending the Oslo Forum peace conference on Monday. PHOTO: Kjetil Elsebutangen/Utenriksdepartementet

Bono, known for his humanitarian work around the world, had never met the woman and her late husband whom he dedicated the song “Walk on” to 12 years ago. He was welcomed to the conference at the Losby Gods hotel and golf club northeast of Oslo by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

Suu Kyi has been in Norway since Friday, when she arrived to finally deliver her Nobel Lecture on Saturday. Thousands of Norwegian residents, many of them Burmese exiles in Norway and supporters of Suu Kyi from abroad, have turned out both in Oslo and in Bergen on Sunday to catch a glimpse of her, greet her and hear her speak. Bergen is home to the annual Rafto Prize for human rights, the first major international prize awarded to Suu Kyi in 1990. She won the Nobel Peace Prize the year after, and crowds in Bergen were large as Suu Kyi finally could give her personal thanks.

“When  won the Rafto Prize, I felt like I wasn’t alone,” she said. “‘Thank you’ isn’t enough, but it’s what I can say.” Police estimated that as many as 20,000 were on hand at the city square known as Torgallmeningen, to give her a long, standing ovation.

On Sunday morning, before flying to Bergen, Suu Kyi had a meeting with Støre in his office in Oslo. He had met with her in January in Burma (also known as Myanmar) and is following developments in the country closely, as its military regime starts reforming its hard-line policies.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (left) welcoming Bono to the hotel and conference center Losby Gods in Oslo on Monday. PHOTO: Kjetil Elsebutangen/Utenriksdepartementet

Støre said on Sunday that Burma will need help just to sort out all the aid expected to pour into the country in the next several years. He said Norwegian authorities have experience in coordinating aid projects and were standing by to help if called upon.

“It’s not only about money in Myanmar,” Støre told news bureau NTB. “The challenge will be to monitor those wanting to help and those exploiting the situation. It can be a chaos of helping hands. We can organize the donors, evaluate how goals are reached and hold those receiving aid accountable for the aid. It’s a modest but important contribution.”

He also told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the Norwegian government would be careful not just to work with Suu Kyi, or heed what her political party wants, in the years ahead. He said that Norway would work with the government and other elected officials in Burma/Myanmar. The country’s minister for industry, U Soe Thane, was among those attending the Oslo Forum on Monday, and Suu Kyi said it was important to cooperate with the country’s military government.

The Oslo Forum gathered around 100 peace brokers and key players in peace processes around the world. Bono himself was there to speak about the peace process and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, before escorting Suu Kyi to Dublin Monday afternoon for a major concert sponsored by Amnesty International in Dublin Monday night. Bono told reporters he hoped he wouldn’t be too nervous to sing, with Suu Kyi in the audience.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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