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Madonna loses adoption bid

By Mabvuto Banda

LILONGWE (Reuters) - Madonna will not be allowed to adopt a second child from Malawi, a 4-year-old girl named Mercy James, the African country's High Court ruled on Friday.

The ruling will please campaigners who say authorities have given the pop star special treatment. Malawi's government, which came under fire after Madonna adopted a 13-month-old Malawian boy, had said on Thursday it would support a second adoption.

Court registrar Ken Manda told reporters the American singer's bid to adopt Mercy had been rejected because she was not a resident of Malawi.

An AIDS epidemic in the impoverished southern African country has orphaned more than one million children and Madonna has set up a charity for Malawian children.

Her lawyer, Alan Chinula, said he had lodged an appeal over the ruling with the Supreme Court.

"I just filed the notice of appeal this afternoon on instructions from my client," Chinula told Reuters.

"I'm currently studying the judgment so that I can come up with the grounds to appeal."

In her ruling, Judge Esimie Chombo warned against celebrity adoptions because they could lead to child trafficking.

"Anyone could come to Malawi and quickly arrange for an adoption that might have grave consequences on the very children that the law seeks to protect," she said.

Madonna has entertained millions with sexy high-energy performances and songs like "Material Girl" and "Papa Don't Preach." She has also created controversies along the way.

In 1989, the video for "Like A Prayer," with its links between religion and eroticism, was condemned by the Vatican and caused Pepsi-Cola to cancel a sponsorship deal with the star.

Madonna surprised fans in February by dedicating another of her hits, "Like a Virgin," to the pope at a concert in Rome.

CHARITY WORK

Malawian rights groups, who accused the government of skirting residency laws when Madonna adopted David Banda in 2006, also opposed the latest adoption attempt.

Rights activist Mavuto Bamusi said the decision was a "defining moment for child protection" but urged the pop star to continue her charity work.

"We finally appeal to Madonna to take this positively and continue to help the children of this country," he told Reuters.

Malawian Information Minister Patricia Kaliati said on Thursday that Madonna was a worthy mother who was supporting over 25,000 orphans in the country.

Madonna's charity, Raising Malawi, plans to build a multi-million dollar school for girls in Chikhota village, near Lilongwe.

Madonna, accompanied by David, arrived in Malawi on Sunday ahead of the court examination of her application.

The star, who was divorced last year from British film director Guy Ritchie, is one of the most successful singers of all time, with album sales of more than 200 million.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Woodward)

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