Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

US President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee says Obama won for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.''

Barack Obama was on a shortlist that contained an unprecedented 205 people. It was his strong efforts in making the world the better place that attracted the attention of the Nobel Committee.

“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.

The committee said it 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,'' it was stated.

A couple display placards congratulating US President Barack Obama on winning Nobel Peace Prize outside the White House in Washington, DC, on October 9, 2009. (AFP Photo /Jewel Samad)

Barack Obama has said he was “both surprised and deeply humbled” to win the award, but he is not sure he has done enough to earn it.

“I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize,” Obama said.

President Obama’s name was circulating in speculation before the award, but many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to award the President. For some the news eventually came as a surprise.

“I don’t believe he has gained sufficient fame to become a Nobel Prize winner just for one action – re-opening negotiations on nuclear reduction. It’s even more difficult to understand this decision taking into account that he’s continuing the war in Afghanistan. I believe it’s very strange,” commented former member of the European Parliament Giulietto Chiesa.

“I know it seems surprising for some people that at the moment when the US is at war, the Nobel Peace Prize is given to the American president,” Jean-Guy Vataux, manager of the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, told RT.

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And RT’s political commentator Peter Lavelle calls the decision very aspirational and not realistic.

“If they think they are going to change American foreign policy by giving this award, I think they are going to regret it down the line,” Lavelle said.

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, from a web-based talk show known as the Young Turks, said the move may pressure Obama to resist calls for more troops in Afghanistan.

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“High standard set” – Russia

Head of Russia’s Parliamentary Commission on International Affairs, Konstantin Kosachev, views the award as “a high standard set for Obama, which he can meet only with concrete actions”.

Vladimir Kremlev for RT

Another motive Kosachev sees in the Nobel Committee’s choice is the desire to stress that “anger and disappointment over the policies maintained by the previous US president brought the world to a deadlock, from which seemingly there was no exit”.

“The news [of Obama’s being awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize] came as a surprise for me. With all due respect to the new US head of state and his political platform, the award is a recognition of his intentions rather than substantial results,” Kosachev told Interfax.

He also pointed out the anti-missile defense issue as one of the problems that are in need of substantial work.

“At the moment the solution is not altogether working, as abandoning the idea of placing the defense shield in Poland and Czech Republic, Americans have immediately announced a desire to engage Ukraine and Caucasus countries in the process,” Kosachev said.

“US return into hearts” – France, Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Obama.

“We must all support him. He opened a window of possibilities. In a short period of time he was able to set a new tone in the world and a readiness for talks. The award obviously will become a stimulus for the president and for all of us,” Merkel said.

According to French President Nicolas Sarkozy Obama's Nobel Prize marks the “return of America into hearts of all the people in world”.

Praising Obama’s commitment to human rights and international dialogue, Sarkozy pledged his support to Obama’s cause.

“Know that on your way you can always count on strong support from me personally and from France,” Sarkozy said in a statement.

Heated debate – Norway

Obama's award has sparked a heated debate among members of Norway's Parliament. While the country's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg hailed the choice as far-sighted, some opposition members condemned it as premature.

“The award of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama is both inspiring and far-sighted. It is an important award because it may serve as an added stimulus in efforts to achieve the President’s visions. President Obama has created a new international climate of cooperation, where the emphasis is on dialogue and multilateral collaboration. He has extended the hand of friendship in order to resolve conflicts through peaceful means. The President’s climate initiative has restored our belief that by acting together, we can deal with the serious threat posed by climate change,'' Stoltenberg said.

Meanwhile, the leader of Norway's liberal-conservatives Erna Solberg, leader of Progress Party Siv Jensen and the leader of Christian public party Dagfinn Heibroten were less than happy with the award.

“Though he has lots of good intentions, Obama has fulfilled too few policies. The Nobel prize will increase pressure on him,” Solberg said.

“It’s very strange that the prize is awarded based on belief and hope, and not for concrete actions,” Jensen told Norway's Telegraph.

“It will be tough for Obama to wield this medal,” Heibroten observed.

Nobel Peace Prize

The Peace Prize is the only Nobel prize, the fate of which is not determined in Sweden. It is Norway's Parliament that appoints the members of the Nobel Prize Committee every six years, in accordance with Alfred Nobel's will. However the Committee’s decision is completely independent from the Parliament.

It is Norway's Parliament that appoints the members of the Nobel Prize Committee every six years, in accordance to Alfred Nobel's will.

Obama awarded too fast – Walesa

Lekh Walesa, who received his own Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, was extremely surprised to learn of Obama’s award.

“Who, Obama? So fast? Too fast – he hasn't had the time to do anything yet,” Walesa said, when asked at the funeral of the last surviving leader of the doomed 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising against Nazi Germany.

“For the time being Obama's just making proposals. But sometimes the Nobel committee awards the prize to encourage responsible action. Let's give Obama a chance,” Walesa concluded.

Opposite reactions – Middle East

Israeli President Shimon Peres on Friday sent a letter of congratulations to Obama.

"Very few leaders, if at all, were able to change the mood of the entire world in such a short while with such profound impact. You provided the entire humanity with fresh hope, with intellectual determination, and a feeling that there is a Lord in heaven and believers on earth," Peres, a 1994-Peace-Prize winner himself, said in his letter.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Hamas movement has said Obama doesn’t deserve the prize.

“So far, nothing changed. He was giving statements, promises and hopes, while on the ground nothing practical has been done,” a Hamas spokesman told the Xinhua news agency.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed Obama’s award.

“His hard work and his new vision on global relations, his will and efforts for creating friendly and good relations at a global level and global peace, makes him the appropriate recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize,” Karzai’s spokesman said.

At the same time, the Afghani Taliban movement condemned Obama’s Peace Prize.

“We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan. He reinforces the war in Afghanistan, he sent more troops to Afghanistan and is considering sending yet more. He has shed Afghan blood and he continues to bleed Afghans and boost the war here,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.