Douglas and Zeta-Jones to host Nobel Peace Prize

WHEN the organisers of the annual Nobel Peace Prize concert asked actor Michael Douglas to host the event, he agreed but asked if his wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, could lend a hand.

"That was our first choice, but we didn't dare to ask for both at the same time," concert organiser Odd Arvid Stroemstad said yesterday. "It didn't take us long to say 'yes."'

Douglas and Zeta-Jones, both Academy Award winners, will act as co-masters of ceremony at the December 11 concert in Oslo, the day after Iranian lawyer, writer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi accepts her 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.

The concert has already drawn a star-studded cast, including American country singer Tim McGraw; Irish folk band the Chieftains accompanied by Rosanne Cash; opera stars Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu; Senegal's Orchestra Baobab; and Broadway performer Martin Yates.

Norwegian singer-songwriter Lene Marlin and Swedish pop group the Cardigans are also scheduled to play.

The traditional Nobel concert will be carried live in more than 100 countries.

"My impression is that it is getting better and better known," said Stroemstad. "We can see every year that the artists are very positive to invitations."

Since planning starts in January, the artists invited to the concert aren't typically connected to the winner, who is announced in October.

"But we do usually make a few late additions, to reflect the winner," said Stroemstad.

Ebadi - the first Muslim woman to receive the prize - was selected on October 10, for her efforts in promoting the rights of women and children in Iran and worldwide.

She will receive the $US1.3 million ($A1.85 million) prize December 10.

The award will be marked by a solemn ceremony at the Oslo City Hall, a torch light parade in Ebadi's honour and a banquet, followed by the December 11 concert.

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