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Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 16:19 UK

Obama wins 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

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The Nobel committee said they wanted to support Mr Obama's approach

US President Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Committee said he won it for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples".

The committee highlighted Mr Obama's efforts to support international bodies and promote nuclear disarmament.

Mr Obama - woken up with the news early on Friday - said in an address at the White House that he was "surprised and deeply humbled" by the award.

He said he did not feel he deserved to be in the company of some of the "transformative figures" who had previously received the award.

Speaking outside the White House, he said he would accept the prize as a "call to action".

There were a record 205 nominations for this year's peace prize. Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Chinese dissident Hu Jia had been among the favourites.

Instead the committee chose Mr Obama, who was inaugurated less than two weeks before the 1 February nomination deadline.

There was widespread surprise at the committee's decision. While world leaders were largely supportive of the award, thousands of people have contacted the BBC with more sceptical views.

An estimated 75% of comment sent to the BBC expressed surprise at the award. Some said awarding the prize to Mr Obama was plain wrong, others that the decision had come too soon, before he had made any concrete foreign policy achievement.

ANALYSIS
Paul Reynolds
Paul Reynolds
BBC News, London

The award is certainly unexpected and might be regarded as more of an encouragement for intentions than a reward for achievements.

After all, the president has been in office for a little over eight months and he might hope to serve eight years. His ambition for a world free of nuclear weapons is one that is easier to declare than to achieve and a climate control agreement has yet to be reached.

Indeed, the citation indicates that it is President Obama's world view that attracted the Nobel committee - that diplomacy should be founded "on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population".

The Nobel laureate - chosen by a five-member committee - wins a gold medal, a diploma and 10m Swedish kronor ($1.4m).

"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 Norwegian committee said in a statement.

"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."

Asked why the prize had been awarded to Mr Obama less than a year after he took office, Nobel Committee head Thorbjoern Jagland said: "It was because 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," he said.

He specifically mentioned Mr Obama's work to strengthen international institutions and work towards a world free of nuclear arms.

'New climate'

Reaction to the committee's decision from around the world was swift and varied.

MARDELL'S AMERICA
There was already a huge weight of responsibility on Obama's shoulders, and this medal hung round his neck has just made it a little heavier
Mark Mardell
BBC North America editor

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, said he could not think of anyone more deserving of the award.

"In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself," Mr ElBaradei said.

At the other end of the spectrum, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Reuters news agency the award was ridiculous.

"The Nobel prize for peace? Obama should have won the 'Nobel Prize for escalating violence and killing civilians'," he said.

Since taking office in January, President Obama has pursued an ambitious international agenda including a push for peace in the Middle East and negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme.

THE SELECTION PROCESS
Those qualified to nominate candidates include members of national governments, international judiciary, academics and previous prize winners
Five Norwegians are chosen by Norway's parliament to sit on the Nobel Committee
The committee compiles a shortlist of between five and 20 candidates
The shortlist is considered by the Nobel Institute's permanent advisers, mainly Norwegian academics
The Nobel Committee chooses the winner
Details of the nominations and selection process are kept secret for 50 years

But critics say he has failed to make breakthroughs. Domestically, Mr Obama has been working to tackle an economic crisis and win support for healthcare reform.

Some said they saw the prize as a way of encouraging the US leader early in his presidency.

"It is an award that speaks to the promise of President Obama's message of hope," said Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, a former winner.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the award confirmed "America's return to the hearts of the people of the world".

The statement from the Nobel Committee said Mr Obama had "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," it said.

The committee added that the US was now playing a more constructive role in meeting "the great climatic challenges" facing the world, and that democracy and human rights would be strengthened.

Mr Obama is the first US president to win the prize since former US President Jimmy Carter in 2002. Former vice-president Al Gore shared the prize in 2007.

HAVE YOUR SAY
It's a great nomination. It can only encourage Obama to strive to achieve the recognition it brings, as a global peacemaker.
Simon Cordiner, Glasgow, UK

Among earlier US leaders, Theodore Roosevelt won the prize in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson won it in 1919.

The Nobel prize was invented by the Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite Alfred Nobel, and was first awarded in 1901.

He designated the parliament in Norway, which at the time was united with Sweden, to elect the peace prize committee. Swedish academies are responsible for other prizes.

The prize-giving ceremony for the peace award is due to take place on 10 December in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.



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