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Rock stars could mean novel Nobel Peace Prize

October 3, 2005

By Alister Doyle

OSLO (Reuters) – Irish rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono are
among the bookmakers’ tips to win the Nobel Peace Prize on
Friday, alongside more orthodox candidates like campaigners
against nuclear arms or a peace broker for Indonesia.

Experts are divided about whether the secretive five-member
committee would dare to broaden the scope of the $1.3 million
award in 2005 to honor Geldof or Bono, who have campaigned for
years to ease hunger and poverty in Africa.

Last year, the committee won both plaudits and brickbats
for awarding the prize for the first time to an
environmentalist, Kenya’s Wangari Maathai, for leading a
campaign to plant millions of trees across Africa.

After that mixed reception, guardians of what many view as
the world’s highest accolade may be reluctant to be innovative
a second time. A total of 199 candidates have been nominated
for the 2005 award, which can be split up to three ways.

“If the prize branches out to virtually anything that is
trendy, it stands to lose the intent that (Swedish founder)
Alfred Nobel had — to prevent war,” said Janne Haaland
Matlary, a professor of political science at Oslo University.

“I think there are two acute problems in the world —
anti-terror work and the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction,” she said.

On the 60th year of the 1945 U.S. nuclear bombing of the
Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, she and many experts
say an obvious option is to honor efforts to stop the spread of
nuclear weapons.

Still, Bono and Geldof have risen from 66-1 to be third
joint favorites at 7-1 on an Australian bookmakers’ ranking in
recent days after Stein Toennesson, a leading Norwegian prize
commentator, placed them among his favorites.

ROCK AND ROLL

“If the committee wants to go further this year in widening
its interpretation of peace, the prize could go to Bono or
Geldof,” said Toennesson, head of the Peace Research Institute,
Oslo.

Top of the bookmakers’ ranking is former Finnish President
Martti Ahtisaari, at 4-1, for brokering a peace deal between
Indonesia and Aceh rebels this year to end a three-decade
conflict in which 15,000 people have died.

Then come U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and former Senator Sam
Nunn, on 6.5-1, for their work to dismantle aging nuclear
weapons in the former Soviet Union. The ranking broadly matches
Toennesson’s.

Others disagree.

“Since the committee went quite far and were innovative
with Maathai they would want to go a little bit back to a core
Nobel theme,” said Espen Barth Eide, a director at the
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

He said that his favorite was the U.N. nuclear watchdog and
its head, Mohamed ElBaradei.

Candidates who campaign against nuclear arms include Nihon
Hidankyo, a group of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or
Senji Yamaguchi, a Nagasaki survivor. The 1995 and 1985 prizes
also went to anti-nuclear themes.

Or the committee might honor a relief group, like Save the
Children or Oxfam, for work after the Indian Ocean tsunami.

In deciding the prize, a problem is the vagueness of
Nobel’s 1895 will. It says the prize should go to the person
who has done most for “fraternity between nations,” for
reducing armies or for holding peace congresses.

But the committee may be open to new ideas. The head of the
committee, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, was instrumental in persuading
ex-South African President Nelson Mandela to visit the Arctic
city of Tromsoe in June for an anti-AIDS rock concert.

If the iconic Mandela sees rock music as a way of spreading
the word about AIDS, why can’t the Norwegian Nobel Committee
follow suit with peace? “No comment,” Mjoes said, adding: “We
always use the will as our basis and have a holistic approach.”




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