|Haniyeh said Obama should do more to recognise the rights of the Palestinian people [Reuters]|
A surprised world has greeted the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama, the US president, with a mixture of praise and scepticism.
In its announcement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee hailed Obama’s “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian prime minister, said: “This is a surprising, an exciting prize. It remains to be seen if he will succeed with reconciliation, peace and nuclear disarmament.”
In Afghanistan, the Taliban mocked the award, saying it was absurd to give it to Obama when he had ordered 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan this year.
“The Nobel prize for peace? Obama should have won the ‘Nobel prize for escalating violence and killing civilians’,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nation’s atomic watchdog, who was awarded the prize in 2005, gave the award a warm reaction.
|Tutu hailed the award as ‘a magnificent endorsement’ Obama|
ElBaradei said: “I cannot think of anyone today more deserving of this honour.
“In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself.”
South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, awarded the prize himself in 1984, hailed the award as “a magnificent endorsement for the first African-American president in history”.
In the Middle East, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, was more sceptical.
Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas prime minister in Gaza, said: “Unless real and deep-rooted change is made in American policy towards recognising the rights of the Palestinian people, I would think such a prize would be useless.”
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, said the award could be a good omen.
“We hope that he will be able to achieve peace in the Middle East and achieve Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders and establish an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.
Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, told army radio he believed the award would enhance Obama’s ability “to contribute to establishing regional peace in the Middle East and a settlement between us and the Palestinians that will bring security, prosperity and growth to all the peoples of the region”.
Saleh al-Mutlaq, a senior Iraqi politician, said: “I think he deserves this prize. Obama succeeded to make a real change in the policy of the United States – a change from a policy that was exporting evil to the world to a policy exporting peace and stability to the world.”
In Indonesia, Masdar Mas’udi, the deputy head of Nahdatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation, said: “I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s appropriate because he is the only American president who has reached out to us in peace.
“On the issues of race, religion, skin colour, he has an open attitude.”
Liaqat Baluch, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious party in Pakistan, said: “It’s a joke. How embarrassing for those who awarded it to him because he’s done nothing for peace.
“What change has he brought in Iraq, the Middle East or Afghanistan?”
Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, said in a statement: “The award of the prize to president Obama, leader of the most significant military power in the world, at the beginning of his mandate, is a reflection of the hopes he has raised globally with his vision of a world without nuclear weapons.”
|Tsvangirai, who was tipped for the award, said Obama was a ‘deserving candidate’ [AFP]|
Mikhail Gorbachev and Wangari Maathai, two other former recipients, were among the first to offer their congratulations.
Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who was awarded the prize in 1990, was quoted by Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency as saying: “In these hard times, people who are capable of taking responsibility, who have a vision, commitment and political will should be supported.”
Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist who won in 2004, referred to Obama’s mixed heritage of a Kenyan father and American mother, calling it “another very encouraging event for Africa”.
Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s prime minister, who had been among the favourites to win this year, said Obama was an extraordinary example.
“I wish to congratulate President Obama. I think he is a deserving candidate,” he said.