And this year's winner is...

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 October, 2004, 12:00am

Speculation is not a game I like to play, having too often been on the receiving end of a losing bet. But with the world's most prestigious award, the Nobel Peace Prize, being given this afternoon, I am willing to cast aside my reservations.

After all, guessing this year's winner is a piece of cake. In my crystal ball is a man with peace in his heart. He hates terrorists and weapons of mass destruction and respects all people, regardless of race and religion. No one is more deserving of the prize, or is in more desperate need of the US$1 million that goes with it. Strangely, the ball has just clouded over, obscuring my peace-loving hero. With luck, he will again be revealed for all to see.

Predicting who will win the Nobel Peace Prize is not easy. The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which makes the choice, does not reveal the nominees and those who put forward names are told to keep their choices secret. Names do, nonetheless, leak out, sometimes from people wishing to make political gain, or by those close to the committee.

This naturally leads to speculation on a scale rivalled only by a Saturday night casino crowd in Macau. Doubtless, in a gambling den somewhere in the world, a budding entrepreneur has swapped the numbers on a roulette wheel for the photographs of the peace prize nominees.

Because of the guessing frenzy, the International Peace Research Institute - like the committee, based in Oslo, but not linked to it - is bombarded with phone calls from punters at this time of year. Its director, Stein Tonnesson, correctly picked the winner two years in a row and was politely asked by the committee to please cut it out, so he guessed wrongly last year.

Dr Tonnesson's top tip this year, based on a theory that the hot issue of the moment in peace circles is weapons non-proliferation, is the International Atomic Energy Agency and its director, Mohamed ElBaradei. In the same vein, other contenders are former United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix and controversial Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu.

If the committee has health on its mind, Dr Tonnesson has suggested that HIV/Aids would be a good issue to focus on. He has suggested the Treatment Action Campaign, and its leader, Zackie Achmar, a gay HIV-positive South African who has refused to take antiretroviral drugs unless they are made available to all sufferers in his country.

Such names are pure speculation, however, and my crystal ball has just cleared. I must stress that I have no inside knowledge of whether the Norwegian Nobel Committee has actually received a nomination for this man of presidential stature, with deep religious convictions and a background in oil. Given his drive for peace no matter what the cost, it surely must have.

The plight of people fleeing militias in the Darfur region of western Sudan has been high on his mind of late. Iraq has been bothering him, as has the conflict been Israelis and Palestinians.

I therefore have no hesitation in predicting that Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi will win the Nobel Peace Prize.

His desire to stamp out terrorism is understandable, given his first-hand experience through such headline-grabbing events as the bombing of a disco in Berlin in 1986, the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988 and the crash of a French UTA plane the following year. He has paid compensation to the victims and their families.

Last December, under pressure from the US and Britain, he admitted to a programme to develop nuclear weapons and voluntarily dismantled it. IAEA inspectors were invited in to make sure the job had been done properly. So, Colonel Gaddafi it is then. Surely you didn't think I meant US President George W. Bush, did you?

Peter Kammerer is the Post's foreign editor