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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 04:58 GMT 05:58 UK
Nobel peace laureates in waiting
Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, the 1993 peace prize winners shared with Shimon Peres
A peace prize too early? Two of the 1993 winners
Every year the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Oslo has a unique opportunity to spotlight the achievements of an individual or an organisation.

Their choice is influential, as the award confers on laureates great media attention as well as moral force and 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.07m).

Previous winners have ranged from already famous political prisoners to more obscure peace groups.

The selection process is notoriously opaque, but BBC News Online's Jim Todd examines the chances of some high-profile nominees.


Hamid Karzai

This year, many of the nominations are being seen in the light of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on the United States, and Hamid Karzai is one of the beneficiaries of the ensuing war on terror declared by President George W Bush.

The Pashtun tribal leader was little known outside Afghanistan until the search began for a successor to the Islamic extremist Taleban regime which had harboured Osama Bin Laden.

He narrowly escaped death after entering the country to help engineer the Taleban's fall, only surviving after a US military helicopter plucked him to safety.

Hamid Karzai
Karzai: Also admired for his sartorial style
He became the interim government's first leader in December 2001, persuaded foreign donors to pledge large sums of reconstruction money and was elected leader by a conference of tribal groups and politicians in June.

But instability in Afghanistan continues. He survived an assassination attempt in September and much of the promised aid has not materialised.

In some quarters Mr Karzai is viewed as an American stooge and his support from the US may count against him with the Nobel peace committee.

Stein Toennesson, head of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, believes the committee would like to give the prize to a Muslim this year, but thinks that the Afghan leader has not achieved enough yet to merit the prize.

"Perhaps there is too much support for him from the United States at a time when it is preparing for a new war," he told BBC News Online.

George Bush-Tony Blair

The US president and British prime minister have been nominated by a right-wing Norwegian member of parliament.

Harald Tom Nesvik, Party for Progress, praised their "decisive action against terrorism, something I believe in the future will be the greatest threat to peace".

Bush and Blair
An outside bet, to say the least
But this is a remote prospect.

One of the five members of the committee publicly criticised the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, even before the two leaders began threatening to wage war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"I would fall off my chair if they got it," said Fredrik S Heffermehl, President of the Norwegian Peace Alliance.

US Senators Lugar and Nunn

Former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn and Republican Senator Richard Lugar are tipped as winners this year for two reasons.

Firstly, their 10-year-old project to safeguard the former Soviet Union's nuclear waste and its arsenal strikes a chord in Norway, which has a particular interest in environmental dangers not so far from its borders.

Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar
Nunn and Lugar: Hotly tipped by some
Under the Nunn-Lugar agreement, America is thought to have spent several billion dollars on securing the former Soviet Union's vast arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

But some of the weapons stocks remain unaccounted for and the 11 September attacks and subsequent anthrax outbreaks have rekindled fears that some may have fallen into the wrong hands.

Secondly, the committee could be looking to encourage the voices of moderation in the American political elite, and Senator Lugar - a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - has called on President Bush to seek a multilateral solution to the Iraq crisis.

War crimes tribunal

Two war crimes courts were inaugurated under United Nations auspices in the 1990s:

  • In Arusha, Tanzania, for the trial of suspects in the 1994 Rwandan genocide
  • In The Hague, Netherlands, for war crimes committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia after 1991.

After an uncertain start, when it failed to net any important suspects, The Hague tribunal came into its own with the arrest and extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from Belgrade.

Carla del Ponte
Tough advocate: Carla del Ponte
The lower-profile Arusha court, meanwhile, has been dogged by delays and accusations of incompetence.

"Maybe next year, after the conclusion of the Milosevic trial," Fredrik Heffermehl told BBC News Online.

Nevertheless, the court could be awarded the prize - possibly split with its energetic chief war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte - if the committee thought it would boost the nascent International Criminal Court.

This tribunal - which is not expected to be fully operational until next year - has been hamstrung by American opposition.

Jimmy Carter

The former American president has mediated in many disputes and conflicts, and his well-funded Carter Institute has a number of successful health programmes to its credit.

Jimmy Carter meets Fidel Castro
Jimmy Carter - the best ex-president America ever had?
Earlier this year, he made a high-profile visit to communist Cuba, the latest attempt by US moderates to break the ice after decades of hostility.

The 1994 deal he did with North Korea still holds, under which the then leader Kim Il-Sung froze his nuclear weapons programme in return for US help in building nuclear reactors.

"A compromise candidate if the committee couldn't agree," is Stein Toenesson's verdict.

Rudy Giuliani

This would be a sympathy vote for the people of New York after the devastating suicide attacks on the World Trade Center. The New York Fire Department has also been nominated.

Rudy Giuliani
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
The problem is that he hasn't actually created any kind of peace initiative - and recent comments that he would like to be the executioner if Osama Bin Laden was ever caught can't have done him much good in Norway.

The death penalty was abolished there more than 20 years ago.

Bono

The wild card. The frontman of Irish rock band U2, proper name Paul Hewson, has been much praised for his campaign to eradicate third world debt.

Bono at a concert in Germany
Bono would be a break with tradition
He has tirelessly lobbied western leaders to increase aid to developing countries and earlier this year went on a 10-day trip with US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil around Africa to try to change his mind on anti-poverty campaigns.


But it's just as likely not to be any of the above. In 1995, the committee sprang a surprise with the choice of veteran anti-nuclear campaigner Joseph Rotblat and his Pugwash organisation.

So here's some other names in the frame this year:

  • Religious leaders such as Pope John Paul II and the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians
  • The Salvation Army
  • The Rome-based Church of Sant'Egidio group
  • The US peace corps
  • The Tiananmen Mothers - a network mainly comprising women who lost relatives during the Beijing massacre in 1989
  • Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng
  • Teenage Colombian peace campaigner Gerson Andres Florez Perez

 VOTE RESULTS
Was Jimmy Carter the right choice?

Yes
 74.27% 

No
 25.73% 

5954 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

12 Oct 01 | Europe
12 Oct 01 | Europe
15 Oct 99 | Europe
13 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
18 Mar 99 | In Depth
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