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The biggest star at the Liberal convention swaggered onstage Friday with his shirt unbuttoned, his language a tad salty - and a vow to be a "pain in the ass" to the party's new leader.

And thousands of Liberals cheered, screamed and whistled for Bono every step of the way.

U2's frontman was an unconventional guest speaker at the party's leadership convention, lauding Canada's history of foreign aid but adding that it must do much more.

"I'm a fan of Canada," Bono told the cheering crowd.

"I believe the world needs more Canada."

The rocker lent a patina of glamour and buzz to an event that lacked much in the way of any real dramatics. But in exchange for his appearance, he made it clear that he expected Paul Martin to build on the legacy of his predecessors in the fight against global poverty.

"If (Mr. Martin) carries the mantle of Pearson, Trudeau and Chrétien, if he joins with the groups leading this fight . . . then Canada - O Canada! - will show the world the way forward," he said.

"It's not just that everybody likes Canada. Everybody respects Canada because something is going on here.

"You've avoided a stigma that's attached to the West . . . that other parts of the world regard with such suspicion."

Wearing wraparound sunglasses and a pair of hoop earrings, the Irish rocker admitted he was a strange choice as speaker for a Canadian political event.

"You will have to forgive me if I'm a little shy - you know, I'm not used to speaking to crowds of less than 25,000," he said to chuckles in the spellbound audience.

The crowd was about a third that size as Liberals crowned Mr. Martin their new leader at the Air Canada Centre on Friday.

Bono said he agreed to speak because of Mr. Martin's track record on foreign aid. He lauded Mr. Martin and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for keeping a promise to excuse Third World debt in 2000.

He said both leadership rivals kept the debt-relief promises they made to him.

"I might be the only thing they can agree on," he said, in a sly reference to the leadership foes' long-running feud.

But he cautioned Mr. Martin may not be so fond of him in the future as he continues to lobby for help to the Third World.

He already began pushing for Canada to dramatically boost its level of foreign aid, calling for Mr. Martin to almost triple current spending to reach the target of 0.7 per cent of GDP.

"I'm going to be the biggest pain in his ass," he said. "A year from now he's going to regret tonight."

When he got a little technical with his reference to the gross domestic product, Bono told Liberals they could go "take a pee" or get a cup of tea if they were bored.

Bono launched into a heartfelt speech about the ravages of AIDS in Africa, telling personal stories about disease-sufferers unable to afford medication.

"This is not just a rock star's pet cause. This is an emergency - and that's why I'm here," he said.

"Africa is going down in flames. . . . If we really believed, deep down, that Africans were equal to us, we would not allow this to happen."

He said Canada has begun doing its part by introducing legislation to allow cheap generic AIDS drugs to be shipped to Africa.

But he added that lingering and chronic poverty creates a nesting ground for international terrorism, just like Afghanistan. He said it would be easier to help Africa now than deal with the damage later.

"It's cheaper to prevent the fire than to put it out."

He thanked Mr. Martin and Mr. Chrétien for returning his phone calls when he lobbied them to step up pressure on other countries to excuse foreign debt for poor countries.

"Paul Martin took my phone calls, he let me in, he promised to help - and he kept that promise," Bono said, adding that Mr. Chrétien was equally helpful.

In fact, he joked that all Canadians are generally polite.

He joked Canada could take over the world without an army, and lay claim to historic sites like the Kremlin and Buckingham Palace just by saying, "Please."