from the New York Times
In a stunning surprise, the Nobel Committee announced Friday that it had awarded its annual peace prize to President Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” less than nine months after he took office.
“He has created a new international climate,” the committee said in its announcement. With American forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama’s name had not figured in speculation about the winner until minutes before the prize was announced here.
Likely candidates had been seen here as including human rights activists in China and Afghanistan and political figures in Africa.
But the committee said it wanted to enhance Mr. Obama’s diplomatic efforts so far rather than reward him for events in the future.
Thorbjorn Jagland, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and a former prime minister of Norway, told reporters that Mr. Obama had already contributed enough to world diplomacy and understanding to deserve the prize.
Asked whether the prize was given too early in Mr. Obama’s presidency, he said: “We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future but for what he has done in the previous year. We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”
The prize was announced as the Obama administration wrestles with global crises from the Middle East to Iran to southwest Asia while American military forces are still deployed in large numbers in Iraq and the White House is considering whether to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama has appealed for reductions in nuclear arsenals and is seeking to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
But he also confronts challenges from Iran amid fears that Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapon — charges Iran denies.
Mr. Jagland said the conflict in Afghanistan “concerns us all. We do hope an improvement in the international climate could help resolve that.” Mr. Jagland had been asked by a reporter whether Mr. Obama’s selection for the award was intended to influence the American debate on troops levels in Afghanistan.
Looking back on the Obama presidency so far, Mr. Jagland said: “One of the first things he did was to go to Cairo to try to reach out to the Muslim world, then to restart the Mideast negotiations and then he reached out to the rest of the world through international institutions. “
He mentioned in particular the recent United Nations Security Council meeting on nuclear disarmament and the announcement of the prize noted the special importance the Nobel committee attached to President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons.
“Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play,” the committee said.
President Obama was the third leading American Democrat to win the prize in 10 years, following former Vice President Al Gore in 2007 along with the United Nations climate panel and former President Jimmy Carter in 2002.
The last sitting American president to win the prize was Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Theodore Roosevelt was selected in 1906 while in the White House and Mr. Carter more than 20 years after he left office.
The prize was won last year by the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari for peace efforts in Africa and the Balkans.
The prize is worth the equivalent of $1.4 million and is to be awarded in Oslo on Dec. 10.
The full citation read: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”
“Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the United States is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.”
“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population,” the citation said.
“For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that ‘now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.’”
There was no immediate reaction from the White House about the announcement, which drew a mixed reception in some parts of the world.
The chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, welcomed the award to Obama, Reuters reported.
In Gaza, however, a leader of the militant Islamic Jihad, Khaled Al-Batsh, condemned it, saying the award “shows these prizes are political, not governed by the principles of credibility, values and morals,” Reuters said.
“Why should Obama be given a peace prize while his country owns the largest nuclear arsenal on earth and his soldiers continue to shed innocent blood in Iraq and Afghanistan?”
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Friday, October 9, 2009
from the New York Times
from CNN.com -- President Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
The first African-American to win the White House, Obama was praised by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said. "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."
The committee also said Obama has "created a new climate in international politics."
The announcement came as a surprise -- Obama's name had not been mentioned among front-runners -- and the roomful of reporters in Oslo, Norway, gasped when he was named.
In his short time in office, Obama has acted on a wide range of issues from the economy to terrorism and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Obama also lobbied unsuccessfully to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago, Illinois. After returning from Denmark, Obama expressed no regret about his trip, saying it is "always a worthwhile endeavor to promote and boost the United States."
Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, last year's Peace Prize laureate, said it was clear the Nobel committee wanted to encourage Obama on the issues he has been discussing on the world stage.
"I see this as an important encouragement," Ahtisaari said.
The committee wanted to be "far more daring" than in recent times and make an impact on global politics, said Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the International Peace Research Institute.
Wangari Muta Maathai, the Kenyan who won the 2004 Peace Prize, said Obama's win will help Africa move forward.
"I think it is extraordinary," she said. "It will be even greater inspiration for the world. He has shown how we can probably come together, work together in a cooperative way."
The award comes at a crucial time for Obama, who has administration officials dispatched on global peace missions.
Obama's envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, has returned to the region to advocate for peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Mitchell met Thursday with Israeli President Shimon Peres. He plans to meet Friday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before talking with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton starts a six-day trip to Europe and Russia on Friday. On the trip, the secretary will discuss the next steps on Iran and North Korea, and international efforts to have the two countries end their nuclear programs.
The centerpiece of the trip will be her visit to Moscow, where she will work toward an agreement to take the place of the Start II arms control pact, which expires December 5. She will also address the new bilateral presidential commission that is working on a broad range of issues, from arms control to health.
Obama became the third sitting U.S. president to win the prestigious prize. Jimmy Carter was the fourth American leader to win, but he was long out of office when he was recognized in 2002.
This year's peace prize nominees included 172 people and 33 organizations, the highest number of nominations ever. The committee does not release the names of the nominees.
The Nobel recipient receives a prize of about $1.4 million.