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Speculation rages over Nobel Peace Prize

October 11, 2006 16:39 IST

An activist who has campaigned for an ethnic Turkish- speaking minority in China, as well as an incumbent and former president who helped end a long-running conflict in Indonesia were among favourites to win the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

The guessing game comes to an end Friday when the Norwegian Nobel Committee announces its choice out of the 191 nominees, including 23 groups, nominated for this year's award.

The coveted Peace Prize is one of the prizes endowed by Swedish industrialist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel. Others are awarded for medicine, physics, chemistry and literature.

A prize in economics, not one of the original prizes named in Nobel's will, is also awarded. The prizes, worth 10 million kronor ($1.37 million), are presented on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.

Like the other Nobel committees, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is tight-lipped about candidates and nominees. Peace prize nominators include parliamentarians, academics, former peace prize laureates as well as current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. They often annouce their nominees, offering a glimpse into who is in the running.

Those announcements have been used by betting firms like Australia-based Centrebet to compile odds for possible winners.

Centrebet had former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari at 2 to 1 to win the 2006 prize for his efforts in brokering an August 2005 peace deal in the war-torn Indonesian province of Aceh.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the rebel Free Aceh Movement that signed the peace deal placed second and third with odds listed as 4 to 1 and 5.5 to 1, respectively.

During a visit to Norway last month, Yudhoyono said he was 'humbled' over reports that he was nominated.

Ahtisaari told the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat newspaper Monday that he believed his chances were slightly better this year.

Currently engaged in efforts to find a solution to the future status of the province of Kosovo in Serbia, Ahtisaari was quoted as saying that "because the lottery ticket is already in, my chances of getting the prize are slightly better."

Ahtisaari has previously been nominated for mediation efforts that secured Namibia's independence, and ending the war in Kosovo.

Human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer, who was arrested in 1999 after campaigning for the rights of the Uighur ethnic minority to which she belongs, was at 13 to 1, according to Centrebet.

Kadeer lives in exile in the United States. She was sentenced to an eight-year jail term and was released in 2004.

If she is selected it would likely annoy Beijing as when the 1989 peace prize was awarded to Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetans in China.

In recent years, Bono of the Irish rock group U2 who has pushed for debt relief and his Irish compatriot Bob Geldof, who helped organise the Live 8 rock concerts in 2005 in aid of the world's poor have also been tipped.

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel and Israeli nuclear whistle- blower Mordechai Vanunu are others often mentioned as are the Austrian-based relief organization SOS Children's Villages and the Salvation Army.

The 2005 prize was shared by the UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency and its head, Mohamed ElBaradei, for efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes.


Lennart Simonsson in Oslo