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Malala Yousafzai speaks of Nobel hopes

Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai arrives for a photo opportunity before speaking at an event in New York, October 10, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapl
Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai arrives for a photo opportunity before speaking at an event in New York, October 10, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapl

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girl's education, spoke on Thursday of the possibility of winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize and said she might like to be Pakistan's prime minister one day.

"If I get the Nobel Peace Prize, I think it will be such a great honor, and more than I deserve, and such a great responsibility as well," she told an audience at a New York City cultural center on Thursday night.

A win would "help me to begin this campaign for girls' education, but the real goal, the most precious goal that I want to get and for which I am thirsty and I want to struggle hard for, that is the award of seeing every child to go to school," she added.

Yousafzai, 16, a favorite among experts and betting agencies to be named the winner of the prestigious prize, which is to be announced on Friday, was in conversation with journalist Christiane Amanpour, at the 92nd Street Y, a cultural center in Manhattan.

After receiving death threats from the Taliban for defying the Islamist militant group with her outspoken views on the right to education, Yousafzai was shot a year ago while on a school bus near her village in Swat in northwestern Pakistan.

"You may call him a boy," she said of her shooter, describing him as barely older than herself. She recovered after she was flown to Britain for surgery.

Yousafzai started her campaigning by writing a blog in 2009 in which she described how the Taliban prevented girls like her from going to school. She said being shot had only strengthened her resolve.

"They can only shoot a body, they cannot shoot my dreams," she said. "They shot me because they wanted to tell me that, 'we want to kill you and to stop you campaigning', but they did the biggest mistake: they inured me, and they told me through that attack, that even death is supporting me, even death does not want to kill me."

In a wide-ranging conversation, Yousafzai told the audience she admired Benazir Bhutto, the first woman to become a prime minister of Pakistan, who was assassinated in 2007.

Yousafzai said that for a time she thought she might try to become a doctor, but now wants to go into politics, and perhaps become prime minister of her country one day.

"By becoming a doctor I can only help my community, but by becoming a politician I can help my whole country," she said. "I can be a doctor for the whole country."

She sat along aside her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who said that, although the attack on his daughter was the "worst trauma," he had no regrets about encouraging her to be strong-willed.

"Extraordinary situations create extraordinary characters," he said. His daughter's book, "I Am Malala," was the second-best-selling book on Amazon.com on Thursday.

She has not returned to Pakistan since she was attacked, and says she misses it. She mostly listened to Western music back home in her village, particularly that by Justin Bieber, but now is listening to more Pashto and Urdu music to remind her of home.

When she returns, she said, she wants to tell the Taliban to "be peaceful, and that their jihad is to fight through pens, through words."

The outspoken teen won the European Union's annual human rights award on Thursday, beating fugitive U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded by the European Parliament each year since 1988 to commemorate Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. Its past winners include Nelson Mandela and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, both of whom also won the Nobel Peace Prize.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and David Brunnstrom)

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