US President Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize
October 9, 2009
OSLO – The Norwegian Nobel Committee says U.S. President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
OSLO (AP) — Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba and Chinese dissident Hu Jia are among the favorites to win the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK reported Friday.
French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and Afghan woman's rights activist Simi Samar also are possible candidates for the prestigious prize, NRK said, about an hour before the Norwegian Nobel committee was set to announce the prize at 11 a.m. (0900GMT).
As always, the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee has remained tightlipped about its decision, which it made earlier this week, but will unveil its choice Friday. A record 205 nominations were received this year.
"We've had all the meetings we're going to have, and done what we needed to do," the committee's nonvoting secretary Geir Lundestad told The Associated Press Thursday.
British bookmaker Ladbrokes and its Irish counterpart, PaddyPower, give the best odds to imprisoned Hu, Cordoba, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, and Samar.
Hu, a human rights activist and an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, was sentenced last year to a three-and-a-half-year prison term for "inciting subversion of state power" ahead of the Beijing Olympics. He also was a favorite for the prize last year, when the 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) award went to Finland's ex-president Martti Ahtisaari for decades of work as a peace mediator.
Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of the Peace Research Institute, Oslo, said he favored Cordoba, who leads Colombians for Peace, an organization whose aim is to facilitate peace negotiations between the government and the country's leftist FARC guerrillas.
Cordoba is a polarizing figure in Colombia owing to her close relations with Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez, and her criticisms of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's government as an illegitimate "mafia state" that came to power with the help of right-wing death squads.
Despite that polemical status, she has been at the forefront of efforts to peacefully end her country's half-century-old conflict, which is rooted in deep social divisions. She was nominated by Adolfo Perez Esquivel, an Argentine who won the peace prize in 1980 and is a fierce critic of Uribe.
Guesses from the Peace Research Institute — an annual ritual — have become the cornerstone of world Nobel Peace Prize speculation. However, institute officials admit they have no inside information, and they rarely predict the winner.
Harpviken also mentioned bin Muhammad, a philosophy professor in Jordan who advocates interfaith dialogue in the Middle East, a region shot through with sectarian violence, and Samar. She currently leads the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and serves as the U.N. special envoy to Darfur.
He said he thought this year's award would go toward making "an impact on evolving processes" — such as armed conflict resolution — with the hope of encouraging their continuation.
In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize should go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."
Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, which are awarded by Swedish institutions, he said the peace prize should be given out by a five-member committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament. Sweden and Norway were united under the same crown at the time of Nobel's death.
The committee has taken a wide interpretation of Nobel's guidelines, expanding the prize beyond peace mediation to include efforts to combat poverty, disease and climate change. Some experts believe the committee will turn to human rights this year, because it hasn't picked a human rights activist since tapping Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi for the prize in 2003.
"Twenty years since Tiananmen Square? Maybe a Chinese?" said Dan Smith, of the London-based International Alert peace group.
Emerging superpower China remains deeply sensitive about criticism of its bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square. And awarding dissidents would be a major poke-in-the-eye in the year the communist regime, established 60 years ago, celebrates its diamond jubilee.
The committee is famous for making grand symbolic gestures aimed at influencing the world agenda, as in 1989 when, in the wake of the Tiananmen massacre, the prize went to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
Although most of the buzz this year surrounds Hu, another candidate could be Wei Jingsheng, who spent 17 years in Chinese prisons for urging reforms of China's communist system. He now lives in the United States.
Harpviken told journalists last week that he was skeptical of suggestions that a dissident of any nationality might win the prize this year. He noted that Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland, who just ended a four-year term as president of Norway's parliament, was elected secretary general of the Council of Europe on Sept. 29.
Harpviken said he believes Jagland's connection to both the Norwegian government and a major pan-European organization will make the committee "careful" about who it chooses, hoping to avoid a public debate about its political independence. He also suggested that Jagland might want to avoid complicating his five-year term at the helm of the Council of Europe.
"It would be hard to think that it hasn't had an impact" on the deliberation process, Harpviken said.
Jan Egeland, director of Oslo's Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said he nominated Denis Mukwege, a physician in war-torn Congo who opened a clinic to help rape victims.
"He is working for the people in the biggest war," he said. "Sometimes the committee has to address the biggest wars."
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