OSLO, Norway - Ex-U.S. President
Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize Friday for his work in promoting human
rights and democracy, an award twinned with a swipe at Washington's drive to oust
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Carter, a Democrat who was president from 1977 to 1981, won the $1 million
prize from a record field of 156 candidates for his efforts to solve conflicts
from the Middle East to North Korea, from Haiti to Eritrea.
the position Carter has taken...(the award) can and must also be seen as criticism
of the line the current U.S. administration has taken on Iraq.
Committee head Gunnar Berge
The secretive five-member committee praised Carter, 78, for "decades of untiring
effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy
and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."
"I will continue to talk about peace and human rights and the elimination
of suffering," Carter told CNN of the prize, named after Sweden's Alfred Nobel,
a philanthropist who invented dynamite.
The award was widely hailed abroad as honoring an elder statesman frequently
nominated for the prize in the past, who has been praised more since leaving office
than when president.
Carter won from a field that included Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Chinese
dissidents and U.S. disarmament experts in a year dominated by the aftermath of
the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
But President Bush's drive to oust Saddam, with or without U.N. support, gave
the award an anti-U.S. sting since Carter has said it would be a tragic and costly
error for the United States to attack Iraq without U.N. backing.
BUSH WINS SUPPORT
U.S. lawmakers gave Bush solid bipartisan support on Thursday for a strike
on Iraq, despite wide misgivings abroad.
But the chairman of the secretive Norwegian Nobel Committee said bluntly that
the award was meant to slam Bush's policy on Iraq.
"With the position Carter has taken...(the award) can and must also be seen
as criticism of the line the current U.S. administration has taken on Iraq," Committee
head Gunnar Berge, a former labor minister, told reporters.
Asked by a reporter if it was a "kick in the leg" at Washington, Berge said:
"Yes, the answer is an unconditional 'yes."' On Friday, Carter declined to comment
But Berge's remarks were disputed in Norway. Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, another
committee member and former parliamentarian of a far-right party, said the prize
was not meant to fault Washington. "There is nothing about that in the citation...and
that text expresses the committee's view," she said.
The committee has often antagonized governments, including superpowers.
The 1975 prize awarded to human rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov incensed
the Soviet Union. The 1935 prize to German anti-Nazi journalist Carl von Ossietzky
prompted Hitler to ban Germans from ever accepting Nobel Prizes.
The committee angered China by giving the prize to Tibet's spiritual leader,
the Dalai Lama, in 1989 only months after the Tiananmen massacre. In 1997, anti-land
mine campaigners won for working out a treaty opposed by Washington.
The official 2002 text says: "In a situation currently marked by threats of
the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far
as possible be resolved through mediation and international cooperation based
on international law, respect for human rights and economic development." Berge
represents the committee at the news conference where he made the remarks.
The 2001 Nobel Peace Prize went to the United Nations and Secretary General
"DESERVES THE PRIZE"
"President Jimmy Carter deserves the Nobel Peace Prize," former South African
President Nelson Mandela, who won the award in 1993, said through his spokeswoman.
"Even now when President Bush has taken that belligerent attitude, he (Carter)
has condemned him."
Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham told a Helsinki news conference: "I
think the world will generally accept this award as being a very positive sign...about
how we would like to see the United States behave in world affairs."
The award showed the world wants Washington to further its interests through
multilateral institutions, he added.
South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the prize in 1984 for fighting
apartheid, told Reuters: "He's been doing such superb work since he left office,
actually he's been a great deal more effective than as a former president."
A former peanut farmer, Carter was the third U.S. President to win the Nobel
Prize since it was set up in 1901, following Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow
Wilson in 1919.
The committee praised Carter for an "outstanding commitment" to human rights
and for everything from his battle against tropical diseases to his help for developing
nations. The prize will be presented to him on December 10 in Oslo.
Carter came close to winning the award in 1978 when Israeli Prime Minister
Menachim Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat shared the prize for the peace
accord that he brokered.
The committee that year wanted to give Carter the prize but he had not been
formally nominated by the February deadline.
Dan Meridor, who was Begin's Cabinet secretary at Camp David, told Reuters
he was happy for Carter since the deal he brokered was "an important cornerstone
of Middle East peace."
Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd