Oscar officials said if the explosive political documentary that strongly criticises US President George Bush is nominated in the top Academy Awards category, it would be the first documentary in history to compete for the best picture.

Moore said on Tuesday he had decided not to submit the film in the best documentary category, in which it was expected to be a favourite for the golden statuette, saying he wanted instead to focus his efforts on helping to defeat Bush in the November presidential election.

"I have decided not to submit Fahrenheit 9/11 for consideration for the Best Documentary Oscar," Moore said, adding he was not submitting the film to allow it a chance of being aired on television a day before polling.

"If there is even the remotest of chances that I can get this film seen by a few million more Americans before election day, then that is more important to me than winning another documentary Oscar," he said.

Dealing with the Academy

Under Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rules, a film that has been aired on television becomes ineligible for competition in the best documentary category, but remains viable for other major categories.

Moore won the best documentary Oscar in 2002 for his anti-gun film Bowling for Columbine.

Moore's film could be eligible for
the Best Picture Oscar in 2005

Moore said it was more important for him to attempt to strike a deal with the film's distributors to allow it to be broadcast a day before the tightly-fought election in the hope of swaying voters than to win another best documentary statuette.

The Motion Picture Academy (MPA), the organisers of cinemas top awards confirmed that Moore had not entered Fahrenheit 9/11 in the best documentary category before the 1 September deadline.

They said the film could therefore compete for best picture and for other major awards.

Next year's Oscars will be handed out in Hollywood on 27 February.