OSLO, Oct 12 (Reuters) Former US Vice President Al Gore and other climate campaigners appear front-runners to win the Nobel Peace Prize TOday for their drive for tougher action to combat global warming.
Finland's former president Martti Ahtisaari is also tipped by experts and odds-makers as a possible winner.
The winner of the 2007 peace prize will be announced in the Norwegian capital TOday at 11 am (1430 IST) from 181 candidates. The committee that awards the 1.5 million dollar prize often confounds the pundits.
Gore, who has urged action to slow warming with his book and Oscar-winning documentary film ''An Inconvenient Truth'', could win alone or share the award with the UN climate panel or Canadian Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Norway's NRK television said.
''Such an award would fall under the expanded concept of peace but the activity can be linked to the climate-conflict combination and is highly timely,'' said NRK veteran journalist Geir Helljesen who has a solid record of tipping prize winners.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the prize, reached its decision on Monday, unusually close to the announcement which Helljesen said might be a sign that the five members from five political parties found it a difficult choice.
The UN climate panel, officially called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), groups 2,500 scientists and issued a series of reports this year blaming mankind for global warming and outlining solutions.
Watt-Cloutier, 53, is a representative of indigenous Arctic people whose lives are altered by the melting of the polar ice.
GORE, FINN, EU Helljesen said three candidates stood out this year: Gore, the European Union for more than five decades of peaceful integration, and Finland's Ahtisaari.
Ahtisaari, who was Finnish president in 1994-2000, helped broker a 2005 peace deal between Indonesia and its Aceh province to end 30 years of conflict and is UN special envoy on Kosovo -- a task where he faces stiff resistance from Serbia and Russia.
NRK's Helljesen said the Finn's chances would have been better if Kosovo's future had been clarified during Ahtisaari's term, and said the EU's chances were clouded by a split among Norwegians into pro and anti-EU camps.
Norwegians voted ''No'' to EU membership in referendums in 1972 and 1994, with many fearing a loss of sovereignty.
Experts have said the prize could go to climate campaigners or scientists working on global warming this year ahead of a December UN conference in Bali, Indonesia, that will seek to launch talks about widening the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.
Others tipped by academic experts as possible winners include China's Rebiya Kadeer who has fought for the rights of the Uighur minority, Russian human rights lawyer Lydia Yusupova, and Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do.
Australian online betting shop Centrebet put Ahtisaari and Gore as favourites at 4-to-1 odds, followed by Watt-Cloutier at 5-to-1 and Poland's Irena Sendler, a woman who saved Jewish children during World War Two, at 6-to-1.
The IPCC and its head Rajendra Pachauri were tipped by Centrebet yesterday in fifth place at 7-to-1.
Reuters DKS VP0452