COLOGNE, Germany (AP) -- Led by Irish rocker Bono, at least 20,000 people held hands to form a human chain Saturday around the Group of Eight summit city protesting a deal for Third World debt relief they say doesn't go far enough.
Bono, of the band U2, and other musicians joined the effort organized by the Jubilee 2000 Coalition, an international church-led movement that wants Western nations to scrap debts owed by less developed countries to mark the new millennium.
"We appreciate the absurdity of how it looks, spoiled rock stars on this serious issue," said Bono, dressed all in black except for the orange lenses of his wrap-around sunglasses. But celebrity pressure is necessary, he said, to generate the public pressure necessary for world leaders to take action.
"That's why the pop stars are here -- to popularize it, and oversimplify it," said the rock star who presented petitions to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the G-8 summit host, and was to meet later with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Leading industrial countries reached agreement Friday on a plan to offer as much as dlrs 100 billion in debt relief to 33 of the world's poorest countries.
But the religious groups that dominate Jubilee 2000 are pushing the rich nations to be more generous, complaining that the initiative fell far short of what is needed to relieve a crushing burden of debt on the world's most destitute.
"It's a genuine start, but if it were dlrs 200 billion then you'd start to make a difference," said one London-based organizer, Adrian Lovett.
He said the 52 poorest nations owe dlrs 370 billion in debt.
Police said 20,000 people participated in the event. Organizers estimated about 35,000 -- still much fewer than the 70,000 they'd hoped for.
Participants came from as far away as South Korea. And many, such as Lynn Pocock and her two sons, took part in the human chain at last year's G-8 summit in Birmingham, England.
"Relieving the Third World debt would only cost two pounds a person for everyone in Britain," said Pocock, who lives in Worcestershire, England. "That's not very much, is it?"
Other musicians took part in the protest -- Bono's bandmate Edge, singer Bob Geldof, who founded the "Band Aid" charity, and Senegalese pop singer Youssou N'Dour -- but Bono was the star of the day.
As the chain was being formed, Bono stopped by a Rhine river section of the 7 kilometer (3.5 mile) protest loop around Cologne. He greeted demonstrators -- as well as a small group more interested in autographs than politics.
Church groups lined along a Rhine River bridge watched as about 30 fans mobbed Bono during his 10-minute appearance. Some clasped black magic markers to get signatures on T-shirts, CDs and U2 paraphernalia they brought.
"I think debt relief is good, but I don't know very much about it," admitted Tamara Dous, 22. "I'm here for Bono."
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.