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Nobel Peace Prize Institute Would Prize Some Peace

September 29, 1989

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced next Thursday, and right now Norway’s Nobel Institute could use a little peace.

″We don’t get anything done because the phone is always ringing,″ said Kristin Kjellberg, office manager for the institute.

The winner of the 70th Peace Prize has been decided, but as usual, the name is kept secret until the formal announcement, despite a stream of telephone calls from the curious, said Jakop Svedrup, institute director.

″It doesn’t do any good...we never tell,″ he said in an interview.

The selection committee is not swayed by lobbyists or by thousands of letters promoting favorites among candidates, this year numbering 90, Svedrup said.

Committee chairman Egil Aarvik agreed. ″We look at some letters, but rise above that kind of influence and look at other criteria,″ he told The Associated Press.

The prize, first awarded in 1901, is worth $385,000 this year.

Most people who lobby the committee seek the prestige of the prize for their candidate or organization.

But one man just wanted the cash.

″Once a man, who clearly had problems, asked what he could do to get the prize. He said he hadn’t done anything for world peace but could really use the money,″ said Svedrup.

″He offered to split the prize money if I could get him the prize,″ Svedrup said. The man was never considered.

Candidates may be nominated by previous laureates, members of parliaments or political science faculty members of selected universities.

When delegations come to campaign for legitimate candidates ″we listen to what they have to say and bid them farewell. It doesn’t have any effect,″ Svedrup said.

Letters also clog the institute’s austere Oslo office ″but we don’t take them into account,″ he said.

″We do spend a lot of time sorting mail,″ said Ms. Kjellberg. ″Many people, some with tragic stories, write asking for the money. They don’t understand the prize.″

The Nobel laureate is chosen by a five-member committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament to six-year terms. The institute, which has five permanent employees, maintains a library and provides the committee with meeting rooms and research facilities.

The committee meets six or seven times a year. No notes leave the room, no list of candidates is made available, and the committee’s deliberations are, by law, kept secret for 50 years.

Svedrup said secrecy protects candidates, sometimes keeping details of their activities from their home governments.

Each year Norway’s media try to guess the winner. This year bets are on Czech human rights activists Jiri Hajak or Vaclav Havel; imprisoned South African activist Nelson Mandela; Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, or Ronald Reagan.

″This year’s choice will be criticized ... they always are,″ Svedrup said. The prize will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of benefactor Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.

Last year the prize went to the U.N. peacekeeping forces. Other recent winners were Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, and India’s Mother Teresa.

There have been 19 years in which no prize was awarded.

Nobel, a Swede, never explained why he picked Norway’s Parliament to award the Peace Prize. The Nobel prizes for literature, chemistry, and physics are awarded in Sweden and will be announced in Stockholm later in October.

Some believe Nobel wished to ease tensions between the neighboring countries, which were under one crown when he wrote his will in 1895. The union dissolved in 1905.

Nobel hoped his 1867 invention of dynamite would prove to be a powerful weapon that would deter war and bring peace.

″My dynamite factories may well put an end to war sooner than your (peace) conferences,″ he wrote to a friend and peace activist in 1892. ″The day when two army corps can annihilate one another in one second, all civilized nations, it is to be hoped, will recoil from war and discharge their troops.″

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