Pope Francis, anti-nuclear activists among Nobel Peace Prize contenders

OSLO: Pope Francis and a line-up of anti-nuclear campaigners headed lists of favorites to win the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize on the eve of Friday's announcement.

The Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was named as a leading contender for the $972,000 prize by Norway's state broadcaster NRK and by Nobeliana, a website run by historians who specialize in tracking the award.

NRK said Pope Francis' opposition to nuclear weapons boosted his chances, alongside his help in brokering a deal between the United States and Cuba, and his encyclical on climate change. Nobeliana mentioned his calls for social justice.

Both organizations also highlighted Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, while Nobeliana picked out Sumiteru Taniguchi, a survivor of the atomic attack on Nagasaki.

NRK, which has correctly predicted a number of winners, mentioned Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as contenders for concluding a deal over Tehran's nuclear program.

Private broadcaster TV2 reported that they, and probably an EU representative, were considered in the final round of deliberations by the committee which is due to announce the winner at 0900 GMT (0400 EDT).

Pundits also named a list of other contenders, including Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Marxist rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, for their efforts to put an end to the war that has blighted Colombia for five decades.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, Eritrean priest Mussie Zerai and the mayor of the Italian island of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini, have also been named widely because of their work dealing with the refugee crisis.

Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and its editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov, known for their investigations into corruption, and Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, who helps victims of sexual violence, have also been mentioned by commentators.

Around 273 individuals and organizations have been nominated by past winners, political leaders and other dignitaries.