October 6, 2005

ElBaradei leads Nobel Peace tips

By Alister Doyle

OSLO (Reuters) - The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog and its head,
Mohamed ElBaradei, have taken over as a bookmakers' favorite to
win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, six decades after the U.S.
atom bombing of Hiroshima.

The 1995 and 1985 prizes went to ban-the-bomb campaigners
and many experts expect that the secretive five-member Nobel
committee is also likely to commemorate the 1945 bombing when
it announces its choice from 199 candidates in Oslo at 0900 GMT
on Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and
ElBaradei, its Egyptian director general, became 2-1 favorites
on an Australian bookmakers' Web site which was the first to
accept bets on the Prize two years ago. They narrowed from an
earlier 25-1.

The IAEA ousted ex-Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, a
broker in conflicts from the Balkans to Namibia, from the top
spot. Ahtisaari brokered a deal in August between Indonesia and
Aceh rebels to end a conflict in which 15,000 people have died.

It was unclear what spurred the U.N. bets. The Norwegian
Nobel committee makes it a point of honor to prevent leaks.

Apart from Ahtisaari, three of the top four favorites were
involved in banning or limiting the spread of nuclear weapons.
Irish rock stars Bono and Bob Geldof, nominated for campaigning
to end Third World poverty, faded to joint fifth.

Some peace researchers say the IAEA has done too little to
merit the prize amid standoffs with Iran and North Korea on
their atomic programs. Others say that a prize would encourage
non-proliferation work.

"I think that ElBaradei and the IAEA are quite likely
winners," said Espen Barth Eide, a director at the Norwegian
Institute of International Affairs. "This is a deeply serious
issue and supposed to be a major theme of world reform."


But Stein Toennesson, head of the Peace Research Institute
in Oslo, said the IAEA had not done enough. The will of Alfred
Nobel, the Swedish founder of the awards, says the prize should
go to whomever had done the most for peace in the year.

He said his top favorites were U.S. Senator Richard Lugar
and former Senator Sam Nunn for working to dismantle aging
atomic weapons in the former Soviet Union.

"Their work is practical and future-oriented, a good way to
reduce the spread of nuclear arms and limit terrorism," he

Other bookmakers' favorites include Nihon Hidankyo, a
Japanese group representing survivors of the 1945 Hiroshima and
Nagasaki bombings, and Senji Yamaguchi, a Hidankyo leader who,
aged 14, almost died from burns in the Nagasaki bombing.

Finland's Ahtisaari, visiting Tanzania, said he did not
know if he had been nominated. The Finnish parliament has
nominated him for 2006 for the Aceh deal but nominations for
2005 closed on February 1.

"Has anyone nominated me for this year? At least they've
not told me," he told Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat.

And Bono and Geldof faded after criticism that they already
had the celebrity that the prize confers. Little-known Kenyan
environmentalist Wangari Maathai won in 2004, giving huge
publicity for her campaign to plant trees across Africa.

"Bono doesn't need a peace prize," wrote Bernt Erik
Pedersen, a journalist in Norwegian daily Dagsavisen.

One possibility is a prize to a woman -- 2005 is the 100th
anniversary of the first female laureate, Austrian peace
campaigner Bertha von Suttner. Only 12 women have won since the
award was set up in 1901.