The World Awards organisation was set up three years ago to honour men who have played a leading and positive role in changing the world.

Wednesday evening's ceremony in the northern German city of Hamburg was presided by former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.

The "men of the year" honour went to Iraqi doctors for their "heroic" work among civilians during the US-led war against Baghdad earlier this year, according to the citation.

Amongst those also honoured at the ceremony were actors Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Christopher Reeve, former Polish leader Lech Walesa, US chat show host Larry King and tenor Placido Domingo.

Mikhail Gorbachev (L) gives Yusuf
Islam his 'world social' award

Also in line for awards were cyclist Jan Ullrich, designer Karl Lagerfeld, Siemens boss Heinrich von Pierer and illusionist duo Siegfried and Roy.

Yusuf Islam,former British singer, known as Cat Stevens, received the “world social” award.

"World actor" was Michael Douglas and "world artist" Morgan Freeman.

Diverse awards
 
Other awards included:

  • World business  - Heinrich von Pierer
  • World tolerance - Lech Walesa
  • World media  - Larry King
  • World fashion - Karl Lagerfeld
  • World achievement - Placido Domingo
  • World connection - Jan Ullrich
  • World future - Dietrich Groenemeyer for cancer research 
  • World entertainment - Siegfried and Roy. The latter, Roy Horn, is still receiving intensive treatment after being mauled by a white tiger during their Las Vegas show earlier this month.

In addition, a special lifetime achievement award was to go to  Christopher Reeve, the paralysed "Superman" actor; another to the veteran Bee Gees; and a "world arts" gong to the British pop group Pet Shop Boys.

Previous awards winners have included the New York firefighters, Pope John Paul II, Michael Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Simon Wiesenthal, Richard Branson, Dr Christiaan Barnard, Paul McCartney and Luciano Pavarotti.