‘World will rally around Peace Prize pick’

The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize will be seen as a unifying choice and will be less controversial than last year's award, the head of the prize committee said Thursday, a day before the announcement.

"I think (this year's prize) will be well-received all over the world," Nobel Committee chief Thorbjørn Jagland told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK late on Thursday.

At 11am on Friday, the committee will announce a Peace Prize that is "very powerful… but at the same time very unifying," he said, adding though that the pick "is not without conflict."

At the same time, he stressed, the prize would "not create as strong reactions from a single country as it did last year," when the choice of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo outraged Beijing.

Nobel observers have long speculated that the Arab Spring uprising, which brought the overthrow of autocratic regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and rattled those in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, will colour this year's prize, with cyber activists from North Africa seen as the front-runners.

Jagland, however, played down that option on Thursday, pointing out that "there are many other positive developments in the world that we have looked at."

"I think it is a little strange that researchers and others have not seen them," he said, without providing any more hints.

The list of candidates — this year a record 241 names long — is always a closely-kept secret, each year resulting in frenzied speculation up until the last moment.

Other names that have been circulating are Sima Samar, an Afghan doctor and women's rights activist, and Russian activist Svetlana Gannushkina and her human rights group Memorial.

The European Union, currently in full crisis mode due to the spiralling debt problems in the eurozone, has meanwhile been increasingly mentioned as a possible winner for its role in keeping the peace in most of Europe for more than half a century.

Although Norway is not a member of the EU, Jagland is an outspoken supporter of the bloc.

In an article published by Norwegian daily VG Wednesday, the Nobel Committee chief confided that this year's prize would "go to something that has been important to me all my life."

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