OSLO, Norway – A record 199 individuals and groups were nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize (search), and the secret list of nominees was believed to range from former Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) to U2 singer Bono (search).
The final count of nominees, released Thursday, included 163 individuals and 36 organizations, said Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian awards committee.
"This is an increase that shows the continued strong interest in the prize," said Lundestad. He said there was a broad geographical distribution of names.
Last year, Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai (search) won the prize. He was among 194 nominees, the previous record.
The five-member awards committee keeps the nomination list secret for 50 years and gives no hints about who is on it.
However, those nominating candidates often announce their choice.
This year, known nominations include:
— Powell for his efforts to end Sudan's 21-year civil war, a campaign to share the award between 1,000 women who work for peace,
— Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (search); exiled Bangledeshi writer Taslima Nasrin (search); former Illinois governor and anti-death penalty campaigner George Ryan (search); the group Tiananmen Mothers (search), which represents families of those killed in the 1989 massacre in Beijing; SOS-Children's Village (search), a charity that provides homes to abandoned and abused children worldwide; and long-jailed Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanun (search)u.
Those believed to be nominated include: The International Atomic Energy Agency (search), International Red Cross (search), Save the Children (search), Pope John Paul II (search) and former Czech President Vaclav Havel (search).
Although at least one U.S. Congressman with nomination rights has said President Bush deserved the prize for the Sudan peace effort, it was not clear whether the American leader had been nominated.
The awards committee accepts nominations postmarked by Feb. 1, and can add its own names at its first meeting of the year, which was Tuesday. Going into that meeting, there were 166 nominations.
"This year, the committee added a lot of names," Lundestad. "That does not mean that a committee member already has a favorite candidate. They just want to be sure."
The deadline is so strict that, in 1978, the committee wanted to include former President Jimmy Carter for the Nobel for his work on the Camp David peace agreement but couldn't because he was not nominated in time. Carter won the 2002 peace prize for his many years of peace efforts.
Lundestad also has pointed out that it is easy to be nominated for the prize, but hard to win. Being nominated also does not mean that the committee endorses that candidate in any way.
The committee, which is appointed by but does not answer to parliament, has already pared down the names to an initial short-list, which is also kept secret.
Lundestad said nominations streamed in from all over the world but that most came from Norway, the United States, Sweden and Germany.
The award, including $1.6 million, is always presented on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of its founder, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. The peace prize is awarded in Oslo, and the other Nobel Prizes are presented in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.