OSLO (Reuters) - The anti-nuclear group which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize accused the United States, Britain and France on Wednesday of snubbing its disarmament work by planning to send only second-rank diplomats to the award ceremony next month.
"It's some kind of protest against the Nobel Peace Prize," Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), told Reuters of a plan by the three nations to send only deputy chiefs of mission.
"They like their nuclear weapons very much and don't like it when we try to ban them," she said, accusing the three of wrongly opposing ICAN's work "when North Korea and the United States are exchanging threats to use nuclear weapons".
The annual December 10 Nobel prize ceremony in Oslo, attended by King Harald and Queen Sonja, is the highlight of the diplomatic calendar in Norway. The prize comprises a diploma, a gold medal and a cheque for $1.1 million.
Olav Njoelstad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, confirmed the three nations would send only deputies. He said the awards committee always preferred to see chiefs of mission.
"That being said, we are neither surprised nor offended by the fact that sometime foreign governments prefer to stay away from the ceremony in protest or, as in this case, because they prefer to be represented by their deputy chiefs of mission," he told Reuters.
"The Nobel Peace Prize is, after all, a political prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee takes notice of the joint decision of the British, French and U.S. embassies," he said.
The British embassy confirmed it was sending a deputy ambassador and said in a statement "the UK is committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
"We share this goal with our partners across the international community including U.S. and France."
The U.S. and French embassies were not immediately available for comment. Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump nominated Kenneth Braithwaite to the post of ambassador in Oslo, currently held by an acting ambassador.
ICAN, a coalition of grassroots non-government organizations in more than 100 nations, campaigned successfully for a U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by 122 nations in July this year.
But the agreement is not signed by - and would not apply to - any of the states that already have nuclear arms, which include the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, as well as India, Pakistan and North Korea.
Israel neither confirms nor denies the widespread assumption that it controls the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal.
It was not clear whether other nuclear powers would send Oslo ambassadors to the Nobel ceremony.
The absence of ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France "is disappointing but at the same time we are focused on getting a majority of states in the world to join this treaty," Fihn said.
She said the three nuclear states were exerting pressure on other nations "not to engage in this treaty".
(Reporting By Alister Doyle; editng by Ralph Boulton)