Dispute freezes Nobel landmine cash

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The Independent Online
Activists of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines sought to defuse a row yesterday over the future of their Nobel Prize-winning leader.

A Frankfurt conference was expected to demote Jody Williams, the charismatic American campaigner.

Reports that she had already been sacked were premature, a spokesman insisted. "Jody Williams remains co-ordinator," said Thomas Gebauer. But Ms Williams's grip on the day-to-day running of the campaign will be loosened.

"She will hand over these functions to a staff member, so she can concentrate on her other activities," Mr Gebauer added.

"Perhaps she could become an ambassador-at-large."

Ms Williams, who is attending the Frankfurt conference, has indicated she would accept such a position. Since 1991, she has worked for the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, based in Washington, and was instrumental in bringing together more than 1,000 disparate groups. Last year, their high-profile campaigning, invested with the glamour of Diana, Princess of Wales, culminated in an international treaty to ban landmines. But after the award of the Nobel Peace Prize, matters turned sour. Ms Williams was dismissed abruptly by the Vietnam Veterans, for reasons yet to be made public.

Meanwhile, though activists expected her to hand over her half-share of the Nobel Prize, the loot, worth about pounds 300,000, is believed to be sitting in her bank account.

The other half, awarded to the Campaign, awaits distribution.

Until the members can clarify who controls the purse strings, none of it can be spent.