Carter has rehabilitated his reputation and secured the Nobel Peace Prize [GALLO/GETTY] 

 

Jimmy Carter, 84, a former peanut farmer who rose to become the United States' 39th president from 1977 to 1981, has redefined what an ex-president can do.

 

He has used his status to help advance peace efforts and can be described as a born-again statesman.

 

Once derided as a weak US president, the Nobel committee awarded him its peace prize in 2002 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".

 

In his acceptance speech, Carter said that the world had changed greatly since he left the White House.

 

"Instead of entering a millennium of peace, the world is now, in many ways, a more dangerous place," he said.

 

"For powerful countries to adopt a principle of preventive war may well set an example that can have catastrophic consequences."

 

Carter is the third US president to receive the Nobel peace prize, after Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt.

 

Humble origins

 

Dialogue efforts

Brokered the 1978 Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt 

In 1994, Carter persuaded North Korean president Kim Il Sung to open discussions with South Korea

Carter and his Carter Centre has also mediated in conflicts in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Haiti, Bosnia, Sudan, Uganda and Venezuela

Carter made a 2002 landmark visit to Cuba, calling for dialogue between Havana and Washington

James Earl Carter Jr was born on October 1, 1924. When his father died of cancer, he abandoned a seven-year career in the navy to take over the family farm.

 

He turned the farm into a business, becoming wealthy in the process.

 

The fortunes generated from the farm were used to propel him to the governorship of Georgia, and he went on to win the US presidency in 1977 with his "Trust me" campaign ticket.

 

Carter's pledge to provide Americans with an ethical style of leadership was a direct reaction to the legacy of the 1973 Watergate scandal.

 

He insisted on being called "Jimmy," reflecting an easy, relaxed tone to his leadership.

 

The high-point of Carter's presidency was the signing of the Camp David accords in 1978 in which Egypt formally recognised the state of Israel.

 

Camp David was a landmark event. Carter's unprecedented efforts brought Arabs and Jews together, establishing a framework for peace.

 

Leadership falters

 

He remained committed to pursuing ethical foreign policy but, after a promising start, the momentum was lost.

 

Carter's presidency suffered a series of indignities brought about by several major challenges abroad. 

 

The 1970s oil crisis had produced high inflation, fuel shortages and unemployment.

 

In 1979, 66 Americans were taken hostage in the Iranian capital, Tehran, after the Shah was overthrown. A rescue attempt failed to free the hostages.

 

Carter, a prolific author, has written nearly 30
books on various subjects [AP]
A US boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, failed to gain worldwide support.

 

Although Carter introduced a trade embargo and cut off diplomatic relations with Iran, the public thought that he was not tough enough as a leader and his popularity waned. 

 

After serving just one four-year term, Carter became the first elected president to be defeated in office since 1932.

 

Nonetheless, his stubbornness and sense of moral purpose has served him well in his post-presidential campaigns.

 

The success of the Camp David accords influenced Carter's decision to establish the Carter Centre after his presidency.

 

Set up in 1982, the organisation is mandated to promote global health, democracy and human rights and resolve political conflicts.

 

The Atlanta-based centre monitors elections worldwide, sponsors conflict resolution, and helps combat disease in some of the world's poorest places.

 

The near-total eradication of Guinea Worm Disease is its most successful health effort.

 

Global statesman

 

Carter has written 27 books, the latest of which - Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid - is highly critical of Israeli policies.

 

For powerful countries to adopt a principle of preventive war may well set an example that can have catastrophic consequences

He says that the book was intended to stimulate discussion and debate in the US, Israel's closest political ally.

 

"The greatest commitment in my life has been trying to bring peace to Israel," he said in an interview on Israel Radio.

 

Carter says some Israeli restrictions imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank are worse than apartheid-era South Africa.

And he says Israel will never have peace until it withdraws from the territories which it has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

 

Carter has launched scathing attacks on the policies of the Bush administration and has accused Tony Blair, a former British prime minister, of being subservient to George Bush over the Iraq war.

But while he has his critics, Carter has in some quarters won more respect for his recent statesmanship than he ever did during his White House years.

"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 co-operation," Gunnar Berge, chairman of the Nobel committee, said.