Israeli rejects Nobel nomination

2010-02-24 18:04

Oslo - Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu has asked the Nobel Peace Prize committee to disregard his nomination for the prestigious award, a Nobel official said on Wednesday.

In a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Vanunu wrote that he doesn't want an award previously given to Israeli President Shimon Peres, said Geir Lundestad, the committee's permanent nonvoting secretary.

"He sees Shimon Peres as the father of the Israeli atomic bomb, and he does not want to be associated with him in any way," Lundestad told The Associated Press.

Vanunu, a former low-level technician at an Israeli nuclear plant, served an 18-year prison term in Israel for leaking details of the country's secret nuclear weapons programme to the Sunday Times of London in 1986. He was freed in 2004, but is not allowed to leave the country or to consort with foreigners for fear he might divulge classified information.

Still a nominee?

Peres shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israel's then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peres was Israel's foreign minister at the time.

In a highly unusual move, Lundestad confirmed to AP that the Nobel committee has received legitimate nominations for Vanunu, placing him among the candidates that the five-member panel will consider when it convenes on March 9. Normally, nominations are kept secret for 50 years.

Those with nomination rights include former peace laureates, members of national governments and legislatures, selected university professors and others.

Lundestad declined to say who had nominated Vanunu or whether the letter would affect his chances of winning, citing the secrecy of the committee's deliberations.

Vanunu made a similar request last year, Lundestad said. He added that he knew of no "similar example" of a nominee pre-emptively asking the committee to disregard his or her nomination.

According to the Nobel website, North Vietnamese politician Le Duc Tho is the only winner to have rejected the peace prize. He was named co-winner in 1973 with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.