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Russian, Belarus ambassadors invited again to Nobel Prize ceremony

FILE PHOTO: Nobel banquet at Stockholm City Hall, in Stockholm

(This Aug. 31 story has been corrected to say that ambassadors from Russia, Belarus are again invited to Nobel Prize ceremony, not to the Nobel banquet, in the headline and paragraph 1)

OSLO (Reuters) - Ambassadors from Russia, Belarus have been invited again to Stockholm's Nobel Prize awards ceremony this year after being left out last year because of the Ukraine invasion, the Nobel Foundation said on Thursday.

The foundation also invited the leader of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats to the ceremony and separate banquet for the first time. It has repeatedly snubbed long-time Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson, including in 2022 when the party came second in parliamentary elections, arguing his party was not deemed to be in keeping with the prizes' tenets.

Five of the six Nobel prizes are awarded in Stockholm every year after a nomination process that is kept secret for the next 50 years. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo where separate festivities are held.

The Nobel Foundation said ambassadors from all countries that are diplomatically represented in Sweden and Norway, respectively, will be invited to the prize award ceremonies in December. Last year, the foundation left out the ambassadors of Russia and its ally Belarus.

The foundation said it sought to include even those who did not share the values of the Nobel Prize.

"It is clear that the world is increasingly divided into spheres, where dialogue between those with differing views is being reduced," Vidar Helgesen, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, said in a statement.

"To counter this tendency, we are now broadening our invitations to celebrate and understand the Nobel Prize and the importance of free science, free culture and free, peaceful societies," he added.

This year's laureates will be announced in early October, while the festive awards ceremonies and subsequent banquets are set to take place on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.

Sweden Democrats leader Akesson swiftly said he would not attend.

"Unfortunately I'm busy that day," he wrote in a Facebook post commenting on the invitation.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Terje Solsvik and Frances Kerry)