British musician Peter Gabriel has been awarded "Man of Peace 2006" at the start of the annual summit of Nobel peace prize laureates organized by the Gorbachev Foundation and the City of Rome.
Former Polish president Lech Walesa, the 1983 laureate, bestowed the award Friday on the 56-year-old musician and rights activist on behalf of former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who was ill and could not attend.
In accepting the award, Gabriel said: "Music is ubiquitous, like water. With music, we can reach out to human beings."
Gabriel, who launched Witness, a nonprofit organization that supplies videocameras to human rights activists to expose abuses, also stressed the uses of technology.
"We can transform information into knowledge, knowledge into wisdom and war into peace," said the former Genesis member.
"Peter Gabriel is recognized around the world for his activities for peace and humanity," Gorbachev, the 1990 laureate, said in a message. "He uses music, the universal language, to build understanding between cultures."
Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni, recalling that Gabriel was among the first artists to denounce apartheid, hailed a "voice that fights for freedom," while Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the 1976 Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland, called the musician "a great man of peace of our time."
Former South African president Frederik de Klerk was among more than 20 Nobel peace prize laureates expected to attend the event, whose theme this year is "Atoms for Peace or War?"
"Today the risk of recourse to nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction, which seemed to be a legacy of the Cold War, has become more concrete and actual than ever," organizer Enzo Cursio of the Gorbachev Foundation said in a statement.
"During the summit we will also discuss peaceful nuclear applications and their risks, and especially the development of alternative energy," he said.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, will attend the summit, as well as a representative of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, among other groups that have been awarded the peace prize.
Guests include Hiroshima Mayor Akiba Tadatoshi.
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