Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Surprise over Obama's Nobel Award for Peace

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Surprise over Obama's Nobel Award for Peace

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

BARACK OBAMA today won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, sparking a heated debate about whether he had done enough to earn it.

The US President was honoured for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples", said the Norwegian Nobel Committee. His citation highlighted his attempts to reach out to the Muslim world and to curb nuclear proliferation.

Mr Obama was seen as a surprising choice because he has been in office for barely nine months, too little time for his diplomacy to achieve lasting results. He took office two weeks before the deadline for nominations and many Nobel watchers felt it was far too early to judge his record.

Defending the choice, Nobel committee leader Thorbjoern Jagland said: "We would like to support what he is trying to achieve. It is a clear signal that we want to advocate the same as he has done."

Mr Obama was told about the award when he woke early today. Paradoxi-callhe then met military advisers to discuss whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. The Taliban scoffed at the prize, saying Mr Obama deserved one for violence. He ordered 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan this year.

Gordon Brown was among world leaders who rushed to congratulate the President, sending a message to the White House this morning. Mr Brown's spokesman added that the pair had not discussed the award, although they had a phone conversation yesterday.

Nelson Mandela, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, all Nobel laureates, welcomed the award. Ms Maathai, who won in 2004, called it "another very encouraging event for Africa". Former Soviet leader Mr Gorbachev, awarded the prize in 1990, said: "In these hard times people who are capable of taking responsibility, who have a vision, should be supported."

But Northern Ireland-born Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who won in 1976 with fellow Belfast peace campaigner Betty Williams, said the decision was "very sad". "Mr Obama has yet to prove that he will move seriously on the Middle East, that he will end the war in Afghanistan and many other issues," she said. …

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