Malala, Clinton cited as Nobel peace candidates hit record

OSLO (AFP) - Pakistani schoolgirl-turned-icon of Taleban resistance Malala Yousafzai, ex-Eastern bloc activists and former US president Bill Clinton are in the running for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, as the Nobel Institute announced a record 259 nominations on Monday.

This year's list of candidates is made up of 209 individuals and 50 organisations, the Nobel Institute said, without disclosing any of the names in line with its rules. The list of nominees is kept secret for 50 years.

But thousands of people are eligible to nominate candidates - including former laureates, members of parliament and government around the world, some university professors and members of certain international organisations - and they can reveal the names they have put forward.

Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was seriously wounded when she was shot in the head by a Taleban gunman at point blank range on October 9 for promoting girls' education in Pakistan, is known to be on the list and is seen by some experts as a favourite.

"She is a candidate who embodies several causes: the rights of girls and women, education, youth, and the fight against extremism," said prize observer Kristian Berg Harpviken, the head of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo.

But her young age could work against her, others suggested.

"It would be too much of a burden for her," said Atle Sveen, a historian who specialises in the Nobel Peace Prize.

"She's much too young even though the reasons to honour her are easy to understand," he said.

"Linna Ben Mhenni (a Tunisian blogger who was mentioned as a possible winner in 2011 when she was 27) almost cracked from nerves when she was nominated. And she (Malala) could become an even bigger target for fanatical Islamists," he said.

The 2013 laureate will be announced in early October and awarded, as tradition dictates, on December 10, the anniversary of the death in 1896 of the Nobel Prizes' founder, philanthropist Alfred Nobel.