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All eyes on Nobel Peace Prize possibles


Date: Thursday, 12-October-2006
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All eyes on Nobel Peace Prize possibles

Nobel Peace Prize medals
Who will be taking one of these medals home?


The annual Nobel Peace Prize guessing-game has been gathering pace, ahead of an announcement on Friday by the secretive Norwegian committee.

The winner of the award is notoriously difficult to predict as the committee remains tight-lipped over the names of nominees.

But this doesn't stop academics, bookies and journalists speculating about the final choice, based on the few names that are leaked by their nominators. Often they are right, but just as often, the committee springs a surprise with a dark horse winner.

The award was set up by Swedish philanthropist Alfred Nobel more than a century ago to honour those who do the "most or best work during the year for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies or for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".

   
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Over the decades, the scope of the prize has grown, expanding into human rights and even to environmental protection.

The award confers on laureates great media attention as well as moral force and 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.07m, ?730,000).

Below are a few of the possible laureates. Join the Nobel watchers and vote for your favourite.

MARTTI AHTISAARI

Former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Ahtisaari is a veteran peace negotiator
The former Finnish president and veteran peace negotiator is being seen as the top contender for the prize for his role in the 2005 Aceh peace agreement.

The 69-year-old led talks between the Indonesian Government and the former separatist rebels that ended a three-decade conflict in which 15,000 lives were lost.

Mr Ahtisaari has earned a reputation as a diplomat able to handle the thorniest of problems.

He is currently UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy to lead the Vienna peace talks that will determine the final status of Kosovo.

This week he admitted that his current mediation effort has faltered. He told a seminar in Helsinki that he could not envisage negotiated settlement between the Serbian government and Kosovo Albanians.

Mr Ahtisaari helped bring an end to the conflict in Kosovo in June 1999 - his last year as Finnish president - after he was sent by the European Union as a mediator.

In 2001 he served as an independent arms inspector in Northern Ireland.

According to Stein Toennesson one of the few peace experts in Norway willing to speculate on the peace prize process, Mr Ahtisaari appears to be a clear favourite to win the prize.

"It's the only peace process that has really been successful," the head of the Oslo Peace Research Institute (Prio) told the AFP news agency.

Australian bookmaker Centralbet makes him the favourite.

Aceh rebels sign peace agreement

Also nominated for his role in the Aceh peace process is:

PRESIDENT SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO

Indonesia's first directly elected president may share the prize with Mr Ahtisaari for events in Aceh, or win it on his own.

President Yudhoyono
President Yudhoyono is Indonesia's first directly elected leader
In 2005, he managed to persuade the military and a fractious parliament to support a ground-breaking peace deal between the government and the rebels from the Free Aceh movement (Gam).

Gam have also been nominated for the prize. In line with the agreement, the former rebels, who were granted an amnesty, handed over their weapons on 19 December, 2005,

Mr Yudhoyono said recently that if the prize were to be given for the Aceh peace process, it should be given to all those involved.

Before the Aceh peace agreement, Mr Yudhoyono was best known internationally for his leading role as security minister in Indonesia's fight against terrorism in the wake of the Bali bombing in 2002.

Nobel prize watchers say it is believed that the peace prize committee may want to award the prize to a Muslim.

Earlier this year, Mr Yudhoyono published an article in the International Herald Tribune calling for dialogue, tolerance and forgiveness, after the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad caused deep divisions across the world.

It is possible that the committee may share the prize between those involved in the Aceh process but Stein Toennesson of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo said the committee could settle on Mr Ahtisaari alone since it may find it hard to choose a suitable representative of Gam to share the prize with Mr Yudhoyono.

SBY's troubled first year in office

JOHN BOLTON

The US Ambassador at the UN, John Bolton, and long-time Iran investigator Kenneth Timmerman were formally nominated by Sweden's former deputy Prime Minister Per Ahlmark, for what was described in a press release in February as playing a major role in exposing Iran's secret plans to develop nuclear weapons.

John Bolton
Mr Bolton is a highly political and divisive figure
They documented Iran's secret nuclear build-up and revealed Iran's "repeated lying" and false reports to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a press release said.

A Bush administration hawk, he has been a long-time critic of the United Nations and his appointment there caused considerable controversy. The US Senate has yet to confirm him in the post.

In 2001, President George W Bush made him Washington's top arms control official.

As US Under-Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, he was sharply critical of "Axis of Evil" countries North Korea and Iran.

He repeatedly warned that the US believed Iran had a clandestine programme to produce nuclear weapons.

However, Mr Bolton is a divisive figure and handing him the peace prize would not be popular with many. Also, the crisis with Iran is unresolved and an award could be seen as political intervention.

Profile: John Bolton

BONO AND BOB GELDOF

Irish rock stars Bono and Bob Geldof have been rumoured as possible winners for their fight to eradicate poverty.

Bono and Geldof
Bono and Geldof have been nominated a number of times
Both have been nominated for the prize a number of times in the past.

Geldof was put forward for organising last year's Live8 charity concerts, which he staged to pressure the G8 to cancel Third World debt.

Geldof says he is a reluctant campaigner, dubbing himself "Mr Bloody Africa" in January and insisting that being a musician as his "real job".

U2 front man Bono has again been nominated for campaigning against world poverty.

He has been much praised for his campaign to eradicate third world debt, and has tirelessly lobbied Western leaders to increase aid to developing countries.

"They are the typical kind of high-profile, celebrity nomination," said Nobel watcher Dan Smith, former head of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo.

Mr Smith said the committee was more likely to use Nobel prestige to propel some lesser-known person into the world spotlight.

What do pop stars know about the world?

CARLA DEL PONTE

Often mentioned as a possible prize-winner is Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

When she took up the post, she put a poster of what she describes as "The Big Three" behind her desk: Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic.

Carla del Ponte
Carla del Ponte is famous for her relentless pursuit of goals
She said she would not rest until they were behind bars for their alleged role in atrocities committed in the Balkans.

Milosevic died just months before verdicts were to be handed down on genocide and other charges at The Hague. Karadzic and Mladic - who were charged with the massacre of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica - are still on the run.

A catalogue of convictions at The Hague has secured Del Ponte's reputation as a relentless pursuer of justice. But the fiery, Swiss-born lawyer said in an interview with Time magazine earlier this year, that without those two, her job at the ICTY would "only be half a success." Her mandate runs out in September 2007.

She is known for her straight-talking, often abrasive approach. On a number of occasions, she has accused Belgrade of not doing enough to hunt down Mladic.

Ms Del Ponte was born in Lugano, Switzerland in 1947. She began her career as a local lawyer, going on to become an investigating magistrate, a public prosecutor and the Swiss Attorney-General.

In her long role as attorney general, she enraged Swiss bankers, the mafia and international rulers with her demands for accountability. She froze the accounts of Benazir Bhutto and accused Boris Yeltsin of complicity with crime syndicates.

Worst outcome for Milosevic tribunal

THICH QUANG DO

Thich Quang Do is the deputy head of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). He is also a high-profile symbol of the human rights movement in Vietnam

File picture of Quang Do, dated 2003
Thich Quang Do is a symbol of the human rights movement
The UBCV has been banned since 1981 - when the government created its own Buddhist Church of Vietnam - for refusing to submit to communist party supervision. Religion in Vietnam is controlled by the state.

Born Dang Phuc Tue on 27 November, 1928, in Thai Binh province, he has devoted his life to achieving peace and freedom in Vietnam.

Along with the church's leader Thich Huyen Quang, he has spent long periods in exile, prison or under house arrest for appealing for religious freedom, human rights and democratic reforms.

Quang Do, 77, lives at the Thanh Minh Zen monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. He was recently awarded the annual Norwegian Rafto human rights prize.

The foundation chose Quang Do for his "personal courage and perseverance through three decades of peaceful opposition against the Communist regime in Vietnam and as a symbol for the growing democracy movement".

Four previous Rafto recipients went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The US and the EU has criticised Vietnam for putting Quang Do under house arrest. It is often difficult to verify his status as the Vietnam government often claims that he and Huyen Quang are free, despite supporters saying they are under house arrest.

REBIYA KADEER

Rebiya Kadeer champions the rights of the Uighur ethnic group, which numbers about nine million in western China and about two million or so elsewhere, mostly in Central Asia.

Rebiya Kadeer was released from prison in China last year
Rebiya Kadeer champions the rights of China's Uighur ethnic group
The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims who once dominated the north-western province of the region of Xinjiang but say they are being displaced by Chinese migration and development.

The 60-year-old was a successful businesswoman and philanthropist in Xinjiang and was formerly a member of the top advisory body to China's Parliament. However she was arrested in 1999 after antagonising the ruling Communist Party.

She was sentenced to eight years in prison for providing "state secrets" to foreigners. These "secrets" were newspaper clippings about the Uighurs, which she sent to her US-based husband.

She was granted early release in March 2005 because of a heart ailment and went to the United States.

Swedish parliamentarian Annelie Enochson said she had nominated Ms Kadeer because she "has shown unparalleled courage in opposing the Chinese authorities' repressive policies."

But the nomination has angered the Chinese authorities, who have threatened Norway with "consequences" if the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded Ms Kadeer.

Stein Toennesson of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, says Ms Kadeer could be in with a good chance because it is a "long time since the prize has been awarded to a Chinese, and the Committee may also be looking to give the prize to a Muslim, and especially a woman".

However, Mr Toennesson said on his Nobel website that what might go against Ms Kadeer is that she is "in exile, and is thus not currently active in her own country." He says the committee may, therefore, look to other Asian dissidents.

Profile: Rebiya Kadeer

SERGEI KOVALYEV

Sergei Kovalyev is one of Russia's leading human rights campaigners and a fierce critic of President Putin's military campaign in Chechnya.

An eminent biologist, he has been described as one of the founding fathers of Russian liberalism.

The former dissident spent a decade in the prison camps during Soviet times for speaking out against human rights abuses. Upon his release, he resumed the fight to open up the Soviet system, working closely with activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov.

He was appointed Russia's first human rights commissioner under President Boris Yeltsin and was involved in framing human rights provisions in post-Communist Russia. But he resigned in protest over the war in Chechnya.

He spent a long time in the Chechen capital Grozny in the mid-1990s, witnessing the Russian bombing at first hand.

SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a Hindu religious leader enjoys considerable following around the world.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's programme of meditation is taught in over 140 countries
He is head of the Bangalore-based Art of Living Foundation, an international non-profit educational, charitable and humanitarian group offering programmes in more than 140 countries including war zones such as Iraq.

He has recently been active in Sri Lanka meeting all sides in the conflict in an attempt to halt the slide back to civil war.

The foundation promotes the Sudershan Kriya-a breathing technique that eliminates stress. It's stated goal is to "eliminate stress, create a sense of belonging and restore human values". It is now practised by millions of people worldwide.

Shankar has acknowledged that many people continue to be sceptical of his teachings, which he says have helped untold millions to rid themselves of negative feelings such as hatred, anger, stress, jealousy and revenge.

He was nominated for the prize by US Congressman Joseph Crowley, who described him and the work of the foundation as "an example of communal conflict resolution, nourishment of the soul and infinite possibilities of the human spirit which typifies the Nobel Peace Prize."

The foundation has operated de-stressing courses in Macedonia, Kosovo, Croatia, Gujarat and in New York after the 11 September attacks.

The 50-year-old Ravi Shankar is not to be confused with the Indian musician and composer.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5398780.stm

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