Oslo: Six countries, including China, Russia and Iraq, have turned down an invitation for their ambassadors in Oslo to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in honour of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo next month, the Nobel Institute said on Thursday.
"As of this morning (Thursday), 36 ambassadors had accepted our invitation, 16 had not replied and six had said 'no'," Nobel Institute director Geir Lundestad said.
"The six who have said no are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Morocco and Iraq," he added.
As each year, the Institute has invited all ambassadors based in the Norwegian capital to attend the December 10 ceremony, and the diplomats had until November 15 to say whether or not they would come.
However, following threats from Beijing of "consequences" for countries that support Liu, a number of embassies had requested more time to reach a decision on whether to participate.
China's rulers were enraged by the decision to give the 2010 Peace Prize to Liu, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December on subversion charges after co-authoring a manifesto calling for political reform in China, and who they consider a "criminal”.
The Chinese embassy in Oslo sent a letter to other countries' missions in the city requesting that they refrain from attending the ceremony.
Despite the warning, most Western countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Germany have said they will attend.
Lundestad refused to comment on which countries remained hesitant to participating, but Norwegian media reported that the embassies of India, Pakistan and Indonesia were among those that had said they were waiting for clearance from their home governments before accepting the invitation.
Lundestad, meanwhile, cautioned that "you should not over-interpret these numbers because there are always some ambassadors who don't come for one reason or another”.
"In 2008, for example, 10 ambassadors were not present," he pointed out, adding that "there is not always a political reason" why ambassadors turn down the invitation.
In any case, it is difficult to know why some ambassadors do not attend the ceremony, Lundestad said, pointing out that "if you call the Russian ambassador, he will say: 'I'm not coming because I'm not in Oslo'."
"We just send them a card. We just ask 'yes' or 'no'? They don't have to give a reason, we don't ask," he said, adding that it remained unclear when the remaining ambassadors would respond to the invitation.
With Liu in prison and his wife Liu Xia under house arrest and his two brothers not sure of being able to leave China, it appears unlikely that anyone from the laureate's family will be able to come to Oslo to receive the prize.
First Published: Friday, November 19, 2010, 09:11