By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
OSLO, Norway - Rock stars Bono and Bob Geldof were nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with Indonesia's president, a former U.S. secretary of state and a Finnish peacemaker.
That was the easy part.
Making the Norwegian award committee's deeply secret shortlist, already whittled down from the 191 nominees, is another matter, the nonvoting secretary said Friday.
"It's easy to get nominated, but very hard to win," Geir Lundestad told The Associated Press in releasing the number he compiled and checked after the Feb. 1 deadline for mailing proposals.
He said the committee has started pruning the original field of 168 individuals and 23 organizations. That is the second highest number of nominations ever, behind last year's 199.
"It does indicate strong interest," Lundestad said, expressing delight that nominations came in from across the globe, including countries submitting entries for the first time.
The 2005 award went to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its leader Mohamed ElBaradei for their efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons. The tightlipped committee keeps the names of candidates secret for 50 years. However, thousands of people have nomination rights, and some announce their choice.
This year, known nominees include former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for helping to secure a peace deal in the Aceh conflict. Both were seen as frontrunners in early speculation.
"The president is very honored and humbled by this nomination," said Yudhoyono's spokesman Dino Pati Djalal. "As a general, politician and president he has always tried to promote peace, democracy and reform.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was nominated for his effort to end Sudan's civil war. Geldof, former leader of the Irish punk group the Boomtown Rats, was nominated for organizing last year's Live 8 benefit concerts, while another Irish singer, U2 frontman Bono, was proposed for his fight against world poverty.
"They are the typical kind of high-profile, celebrity nomination," Nobel watcher Dan Smith, former head of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, said by telephone from London.
Smith said the committee was more likely to use Nobel prestige to propel some lesser-known person into the world spotlight.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations , John Bolton, and longtime Iran investigator Kenneth R. Timmerman were nominated by a politician from Sweden's Liberal Party. The American Friends Service Committee proposed Jeff Halper, an Israeli Jew, and Ghassan Andoni, a Palestinian Christian from the occupied Palestinian territories.
Other announced contenders include former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Indian scholar Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Israeli nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu. Austria's SOS Children's Villages, former Illinois governor and death penalty opponent George Ryan, and Indian anti-child labor campaigner Kailash Satyarthi have also been nominated.
Likely, but not confirmed, nominations include the movement Thousand Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2006, American entertainer Oprah Winfrey, dissident Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do from Vietnam, Chinese Muslim activist Rebiya Kadeer, Russian human rights activist Lida Yusupova, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Save the Children, Oxfam and the Salvation Army are also believed to be on the original list.
The awards committee, which is appointed by but does not answer to Norway's parliament, met for the first time this year on Feb. 17. They usually add their own nominations then to make sure no big names are left out. After that meeting, there is no way to get on the list.
At least once, a favored candidate was left out because he was not nominated in time: former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Carter won the award later, in 2002.
Lundestad has said the list quickly gets reduced to a few names, which staff then study in depth. After four or five meetings, a winner is picked by consensus, and announced in mid-October.
The committee works in deep secret, is fiercely independent, and determined to resist lobbying for or against candidates.
Given the number of people with nomination rights — including Nobel laureates, committee members, politicians and university professors — Lundestad said it is surprising that there are so few groundless proposals.
"There are largely good nominations," he said, adding that being nominated does not imply any support or endorsement from the committee itself.
The award is always presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of its founder, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. The other Nobel Prizes are presented in Stockholm, Sweden.