Source AP ©

Nobel prize winners claim for new elections in Nigeria

Nobel prize winners called for new elections in Nigeria, stating last month's state and federal votes "fell far short of acceptable standards."

In a statement released by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity on Wednesday, 49 prize winners asked that a conference of government, business and religious leaders come together to "discuss the current crisis" and set a date within 18 months for early elections and electoral reform.

"We, the undersigned Nobel Laureates, are concerned that the new government's lack of legitimacy increases prospects for violent conflict with serious consequences for Nigeria and the region," they said.

"Our recommendation is offered in all responsibility, to help consolidate Nigeria's transition to democracy after decades of military dictatorship," the statement says.

Signers include Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for literature, and peace prize winners The Dalai Lama, anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, memoirist, and activist.

The elections were meant to boost civilian rule and stability in Africa's top oil producer. Military rule ended in 1999, but some 15,000 people have since died in political violence as factions fought for power.

The opposition candidate in the presidential election on Tuesday filed lawsuits seeking an annulment of the vote on the grounds it was flawed. The top two runners-up say the April 231 vote was rigged by President Olusegun Obsanjo's ruling party in favor of its candidate, Umaru Yar'Adua.

Also Thursday, the European Parliament urged the EU to withhold financial aid to the Nigerian country until it holds new elections.

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity says its mission is to fight intolerance through dialogue and youth programs.

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