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Finn, Australian among Nobel Peace Prize tips

October 13, 2006

Finn, Australian among Nobel Peace Prize tips

By John Acher

OSLO (Reuters) - Finnish ex-President Martti Ahtisaari, who mediated a peace accord in Indonesia's Aceh province, and veteran peace broker Gareth Evans of Australia are among those tipped to win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. 

Ethnic Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, who accuses Beijing of persecuting Uighur people in northwestern Xinjiang, and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono are also among possible winners of what many see as the world's top accolade. 

Ole Danbolt Mjoes, the head of the secretive Norwegian Nobel Committee, will announce the 2006 laureate in Oslo on Friday at 11 a.m. (0900 GMT) from a secret list of 191 nominees, rounding off this year's Nobel awards from medicine to literature. 

"This year I find the field to be wide open," said Sverre Lodgaard, head of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, noting that predictions for the 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.36 million) prize were often wrong. 

Being nominated for the award is not without risks for some. Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten reported that the life of one possible winner, Chechnya-born human rights lawyer Lydia Yusupova, has been threatened. 

"Our opponents try to sow terror in us, let fear take root and get it to grow and take over our lives," Yusupova said. 

Australian online bookmaker Centrebet rates Ahtisaari favourite for brokering a 2005 deal between Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to end a three-decade conflict in which about 15,000 people died. 

Kadeer, jailed by China for five years and who now campaigns for the rights of the Uighur from exile in the United States, moved on Friday into second place in the Centrebet odds. 

And Evans, who had earlier not figured on the bookie's list, joined in third place at 6-1 odds after Norwegian NRK television, which has an uncanny record of mentioning the winner a day ahead, reported on Thursday he was in the running. 

Centrebet nudged Yudhoyono down into fourth place from second, ahead of Yusupova in fifth and GAM in sixth. 

CRISIS GROUP 

Evans heads the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), a think-tank which conducts research and works to prevent conflicts. He was an architect of a 1991 peace accord for Cambodia, and foreign minister of Australia in 1988-1996. 

Ahtisaari is also a chairman emeritus of the ICG. The prize, named after Sweden's Alfred Nobel and set up in 1901, can be split up to three ways. 

Brokers have traditionally fared worse in winning Nobel Peace Prizes than parties to ending conflicts, who often put their lives or political careers on the line. The last mediator to win was former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, in 2002. 

The 2005 award went to the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its Egyptian head Mohamed ElBaradei in a year marking the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

NRK's expert Geir Helljesen also said that journalists, campaigners against world poverty or Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalyov might be possible winners. 

Ahtisaari is currently the U.N. special envoy for the future of Kosovo. As a top U.N. official he oversaw Namibia's transition to independence in 1989-1990. 

(additional reporting by Alister Doyle and Marianne Fronsdal) 

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