Bush, Blair Among Nobel Nominees as Deadline Looms
By Alister Doyle
OSLO (Reuters) - President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are among nominees for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize before a Sunday deadline for nominations despite failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
"Nominations are pouring in," said Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. He said he gets letters and up to 1,500 e-mails a day from people either supporting or denouncing candidates.
Among nominees are the European Union (news - web sites) to mark its expansion to include former East bloc states. Pope John Paul, the Salvation Army, former Czech President Vaclav Havel, Chinese dissidents are also among nominees.
"Bush and Blair definitely still deserve it," said Jan Simonsen, a right-wing independent member of Norway's parliament who nominated the two for the 2004 prize shortly after the U.S.-led war toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in April.
"Even though they haven't found those weapons they got rid of a dictator and made the world more safe," he told Reuters on Friday, sticking by the choice. "They got rid of a madman."
Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction were a main justification for the war. None have yet been found and Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice admitted on Thursday some pre-war intelligence was flawed.
Nobel watchers say Bush or Blair's chances of winning are close to nil. The 2002 prize went to ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who argued against war. The head of the Nobel committee called the choice a "kick in the legs" to Bush on Iraq.
The 2003 prize, worth $1.35 million, went to Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi from a record field of 165 nominees. The annual deadline for nominations for the award, announced in October, is February 1.
"NOBEL NOMINEE" NO BIG DEAL
Espen Barth Eide, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said there were no obvious front-runners for 2004. "If something happens in the Middle East in a positive direction then that might qualify," he said.
Ex-Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjoern Jagland has nominated the EU to coincide with its expansion from 25 states from 15 in May and for bringing decades of peace to Western Europe after centuries of wars.
Efforts in nations from Sudan to Sri Lanka to end wars have hit setbacks. And Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is too much of a maverick to have any chance despite pledges to abandon efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Lundestad said many people wrongly believed being a "Nobel prize nominee" was itself a kind of honor.
Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have made it to the list -- every member of all the world's parliaments, university professors from law to theology, ex-winners and committee members can submit names.
"There are many who do not understand the difference between a nomination and getting the prize," Lundestad said.
He also said he could not cope with a deluge of e-mails and said he preferred receiving letters or faxes.
"There are periods when I receive more than 1,500 e-mails per day, either supporting or denouncing someone," he said, adding he simply deleted most all of them. "Please don't put my e-mail address in a story. It's well enough known as it is."
($1=7.406 Swedish Crown)