| Jimmy Carter (AFP)
Oslo, Oct. 11 (Reuters): The Nobel committee today gave the peace prize to Jimmy Carter and a “kick in the leg” to George W. Bush.
The former US President was given the $1-million prize by a committee whose head called the decision a deliberate slap in the face for the current US government over its policy on Iraq.
Carter had said last month it would be a “tragic mistake” for the US to attack Iraq without UN backing.
The chairman of the Nobel committee, Gunnar Berge, used the prize to make a scathing attack on President George W. Bush’s campaign to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. “With the position Carter has taken...(the award) can and must also be seen as criticism of the line the current US administration has taken on Iraq,” Berge, a former Labour Cabinet minister, told reporters after announcing the award.
Asked if it was a“kick in the leg” at Washington, Berge said: “Yes, the answer is an unconditional ‘yes’”. A “kick in the leg” is a Norwegian phrase meaning “a slap in the face”.
But two committee members said Berge had gone too far and acted “unprofessionally” in going beyond the official citation that only made a veiled reference to Iraq. The text says: “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 cooperation based on international law, respect for human rights and economic development.”
Berge defended his interpretation. “I expressed myself as leader of the committee...not on behalf of all of the members,” he said.
The Nobel committee’s decisions have often antagonised governments. The 1975 prize awarded to human rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov incensed the Soviet Union. The 1935 prize to German anti-Nazi journalist Carl von Ossietzky prompted Hitler to ban Germans from ever accepting Nobel prizes.
The committee angered China, too, by giving the prize to Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in 1989 only months after the Tiananmen massacre.
Carter won from a field that included Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Chinese dissidents and US disarmament experts in a year dominated by the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the US.
“This honour serves as an inspiration not only to us but also to suffering people around the world and I accept it on their behalf,” Carter, a Democrat who was President from 1977 to 1981, said.
The prize was widely hailed abroad as honouring an elder statesman who has been praised more since leaving office than when president.
“It’s great. He deserves it,” said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who shared the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize with the UN.
A former peanut farmer, Carter was the third US President to win the Nobel Prize since it was set up in 1901, following Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919.