The 86-year-old former South African president is to host a star-studded concert under the midnight sun in Tromsoe on Saturday, a small Norwegian city across the Arctic Circle as part of his 46664 anti-Aids campaign.

International stars, including Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel and former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant are to join Mandela in pressing the G8 group of industrialised nations to promise at their July summit more action and resources in the battle against the deadly disease.

Message for youth

Organisers also say the Nobel Peace Prize winner hopes to spread the message about Aids to the youth of the nearby Baltic states where millions of lives are in danger.

Mandela has called on rich nations
to do more for Aids worldwide

"We want to begin to raise awareness in Europe, in the developed part of the world about the pandemic," John Samuel, chairman of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said.

Mandela retired from public life last year but has remained one of the leading international voices on Aids.

The concert, which was sponsored by the Norwegian parliament, is part of the Mandela 46664 campaign - named after his prison number during 27 years in jail under apartheid white rule.

Musical events

He has held two concerts in South Africa and plans further events in Florence, Italy and in India over the next year.

Mandela, who has appeared frail in recent public engagements, rested in his hotel room for the day out of the cold and wet conditions but is due to meet the musicians on Saturday ahead of his speech.

His wife, Graca Machel, had been with him, but returned to Mozambique on Thursday following the death of her sister.

Aids has ripped through communities in sub-Saharan Africa where about 25 million people are infected with the HIV virus that causes Aids. Millions more contract HIV each year.

Hardest hit

South African Aids activists
demand greater global action

South Africa is the country hardest hit with an estimated 5.3 million of its 45 million population living with HIV while in Botswana and Swaziland rates are as high as 40%.

The disease is spreading fast elsewhere in the world and already more than a million people are infected in Russia and the other former Soviet states. In India an estimated 5 million people are HIV positive.

"HIV and Aids is a pandemic and as a pandemic it threatens the lives of all of us, one way or another we are all affected," Samuel said.

Officials and soldiers from Norway's army were on Friday putting the final touches to a giant stage adorned by a massive portrait of Mandela and flanked by the sea and the towering snow-capped Tromsdalstinden mountain.