By Janos Gal
Barack Obama has become the fourth US president to be awarded the Nobel Peace prize.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said they awarded him for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”.
He follows Jimmy Carter, Thomas Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt in gaining the prestigious award.
It comes with a gold medal, a diploma and $US1.4m (£880,000).
Obama has been mentioned as nominee on previous occasions although it was felt he had been in his position for too short a period to receive the award.
However, the committee said it attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons and so deserved the prize.
Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite, stated in his will that the prize should be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.
The announcement has surprised journalists present at the ceremony and around the world. “The award is certainly unexpected and might be regarded as more of an encouragement for intentions than a reward for achievements”. said Paul Reynolds from BBC News in London.
Justifying their decision the Nobel Committee said that “Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play.”
But Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official, told Reuters that: “Obama has a long way to go still and lots of work to do before he can deserve a reward he only made promises and did not contribute any substance to world peace. And he has not done anything to ensure justice for the sake of Arab and Muslim causes.”