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181 nominations for 2007 Nobel Prize

The number was just shy of the record 199 entries received in 2005 and the 191 in 2006.

world Updated:

The 181 nominations received for the 2007 Nobel Peace prize are believed to include names ranging from former US Vice President Al Gore to a woman who rescued Polish children in World War II.

In releasing the final count on Thursday, awards committee secretary Geir Lundestad would only give a total count -- 135 individuals and 46 organisations -- without listing any names, in keeping with the prize rules.

"We are happy with the geographical spread," he told the agency, saying the nominations came "from the whole world."

<b1>He said the number of nominations was just shy of the record 199 nominations received in 2005 and the 191 in 2006.

The five-member awards committee keeps its list of candidates secret for 50 years, and refuses to give any hints about who might be under consideration.

However, those making nominations sometimes announce them.

This year, those include:

Gore, for his campaign to draw attention to the threat of global warming;

Canadian Intuit environmentalist Sheila Watt-Cloutier; Bolivian President Evo Morales;

American TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey;

UN AIDS Envoy to African Stephen Lewis;

Taiwanese activist Shih Ming-Teh;

Malaysia's former premier Mahathir Mohamad and peace negotiators such as ex-Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari.

Other announced names include Sail Training International, a British-based charity helping young people develop through sailing;

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad; Polish-American Irena Sendler for saving the lives of Jewish children during World War II; Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Do, and the Colombian groups the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado and the Association of Indigenous Regions of Northern Cauca.

Lundestad stressed that a nomination does not suggest endorsement for that candidate by the committee.

"Sometimes we hear people say they are honored with a nomination, but we have nothing to do with that," he said.

"It is very, very easy to be nominated, and very, very hard to win the Nobel Peace Prize."

The Oslo-based committee receives thousands of letters a year. Lundestad said there were campaigns for a few candidates this year in which each was nominated hundreds of times.

The fiercely independent committee refused to be swayed by campaigns.

The deadline for nominations is February 1, but the number traditionally creeps up during the month as late mail arrives or the committee makes its own nominations at the year's first meeting, which this year was on Wednesday.

Apart from deep secrecy, the list of candidates is further clouded by groups announcing nominations that are invalid, either because they arrived too late or because they don't have nomination rights.

This year, that group appeared to include American radio personality Rush Limbaugh and former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

Lundestad said this year's winner will probably be announced on October 12.

The prize always is presented on the December 10 anniversary of the death of its creator, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel.