Norwegian Nobel peace committee set to shift right

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OSLO, Nov 21 (Reuters) The Nobel Peace prize committee, often accused of a leftist bias after choices such as 2007 laureates Al Gore and the UN climate panel, will take a small step to the right at the end of 2008.

One leftist and one centrist member of the five-member panel will step down next year when their terms end, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said yesterday.

Their replacements, one from the left-leaning Labour Party and one from the far-right Progress Party, will give the right a 3-2 majority on a panel dominated in the post-war era by Labour.

But committee Secretary Geir Lundestad said the distinctions between Norwegian political parties are so slight in a global perspective that the change will make little real difference to the panel's hallmark ''liberal internationalism''.

''We are automatically slightly left of centre. This is where the prize should be located,'' Lundestad told reporters at a briefing at Oslo's Nobel Institute in the run-up to Nobel week celebrations in early December.

''Of course, there are differences between left and right in Norway, so it will have some impact, but the impact will be much less dramatic than you would think.'' Gore, the former US vice president, and the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will receive their prizes in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death of the prize's founder, Swedish philanthropist Alfred Nobel.

The committee has not had a non-socialist majority since the early days of the prize first awarded in 1901.

Lundestad said the Labour Party had had majorities for many years. ''But the three (Labour) members hardly ever agreed on anything so it had a much less dramatic effect than you would think,'' he said.

Since 1977, members of parliament have not been allowed to sit on the committee, so it tends to be made up of former politicians or those with looser ties to their parties. It currently consists of one member from each of the five biggest parties in parliament.

At the end of next year, Chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes of the centrist Christian People's Party and Deputy Chairman Berge Furre of the Socialist Left will stand down since their parties lost their mandates in the 2005 election.

The Conservative representative will be up for re-election but is likely to be reappointed by her party, Lundestad said.

Reuters SZ DB1000

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