“How can you lead the G8? Where is your credibility?” Geldof asked Berlusconi in the interview, printed in La Stampa newspaper ahead of the Group of Eight summit in the central city of L’Aquila starting on Wednesday.
“Here we have the signature of a country and the honour of a man,” Geldof told Berlusconi, showing him the written commitment to increase aid to Africa signed by him and his G8 colleagues at a 2005 summit in Scotland, La Stampa said.
He said Italy had cut aid instead by €400 million. “I am sorry, we made a mistake,” Berlusconi responded, saying Italy’s public debt mountain and the global economic crisis forced it to cut spending.
“We are sorry we also reduced aid to Africa... Our economy minister Giulio Tremonti has made a commitment to readjust in line with our undertakings within three years.”
Development is one of the major themes at the summit, which on the final day will include some African nations.
Geldof’s ONE campaign group said in a damning report last month Italy was trailing far behind other G8 nations in delivering on its collective promise to more than double aid to Africa by 2010.
It said Rome had delivered only 3% of the aid increase promised by Berlusconi four years ago and that Italy’s shortfall risked undermining the performance of the whole G8.
A government adviser told Geldof at the interview that Italy would raise aid spending to 0.33% of its gross domestic product by 2010 and to 0.51% in 2015 – still short of the 0.7% target pledged at the 2005 G8 summit.