British prime minister Gordon Brown has made a surprise appearance on American Idol to appeal for help in the fight against malaria.

Britain has purchased 20 million bed nets to protect against malaria in Africa, Mr Brown explained.

The prime minister, a noted fan of talent competitions, made the announcement via a pre-recorded message during an American Idol charity special.

Mr Brown said: "All year on Idol, it's the talent of the American people we admire. But tonight, it's your generosity."

He said the nets would help ensure "all families could sleep safe at night".

The prime minister has urged other countries to follow Britain lead and purchase the £5 nets.

Mr Brown's commitment has been welcomed by the campaign group Malaria No More, who were working with American Idol.

Peter Chernin, chairman of Malaria No More, said: "I applaud the United Kingdom's commitment to provide bed nets to Africans at risk of malaria and salute Gordon Brown's bold leadership in the fight against this treatable and preventable disease.

"This generous pledge will ensure that millions of African parents can protect their children from the deadly disease."

In 2000, the UN set the eradication of malaria as one of its eight millennium development goals.

It is estimated child dies in Africa every 30 seconds as a consequence of the disease.

10/04/2008 11:18:34