Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize, His "Extraordinary" Diplomatic Efforts Cited
President Barack Obama sensationally won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, less than a year after taking office, with the jury hailing his "extraordinary" diplomatic efforts on the international stage.
Obama was honored "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Thorbjoern Jagland said.
The committee attached "special importance to Obama's vision and work for a world without nuclear weapons" and said he had created "a new climate in international politics."
However, as he is overseeing the ongoing military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama was not considered by many Nobel-watchers to be a leading candidate.
"Likely candidates had been seen here as including human rights activists in China and Afghanistan and political figures in Africa," The New York Times noted in a story published moments after the decision was made. "But the committee said it wanted to enhance Mr. Obama's diplomatic efforts so far rather than reward him for events in the future."
"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said.
As word spread around the world of Obama's shocking victory, many welcomed the announcement with open arms.
"We trust that this award will strengthen his commitment, as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, to continue promoting peace and the eradication of poverty," read a statement issued by the Mandela Foundation.
Exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer added: "I am very happy that he got it. Now he has to do something with the award. It raises expectations on him to stand up for oppressed nations. … Uighurs are getting killed even now. With the award, he should know how to talk to dictatorships like China."
"Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts," the Nobel citation reads. "The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened."
"This year's peace prize nominees included 172 people and 33 organizations," noted CNN. "The committee does not release the names of the nominees."
Former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari won the award in 2008.