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Wartime president accepts Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo

Text by Mehdi Chebil

Latest update : 2009-12-10

US President Barack Obama receives his Nobel Peace Prize in a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Thursday, amid criticism that it is undeserved.

US President Barack Obama will need all his famed rhetorical skills in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance to temper the controversy over a wartime president receiving the world’s highest honour for peacemaking.

“I have no doubt there are others who may be more deserving,” Obama said during a press conference ahead of the ceremony, underlining controversy surrounding the Nobel committee's decision while going on to defend his strategy to escalate the Afghan war.

Obama, who is also under fire for getting the award so early in his presidency, has decided to keep his visit in Oslo as short as possible. He is due to receive his award this Thursday at 1200 GMT after flying overnight from Washington.

Obama has shortened his visit to just a few hours instead of the customary three days Nobel laureates usually spend in Oslo. This tight schedule doesn’t leave enough time for the traditional lunch with the king, which has angered his Norwegian hosts. The US President will also skip the traditional press conference, enabling him to avoid potentially embarrassing questions from the 800 accredited journalists.

Tight security

Norwegian security forces have mobilised up to 2,500 police in Oslo to shield the US president from several protests. The head of the anti-war organisation Fredsinitiativet, Benjamin Endre Larsen, told the AFP news agency that “the Peace Prize creates obligations.”

“We think that Obama received the prize prematurely, but now that he has it he has to prove himself worthy,” said Larsen.

Norway’s government has spent around 10.9 million euros – more than ten times the amount awarded to the laureate - to cover Obama’s security needs, including anti-aircraft missiles near the airport and helicopters hovering overhead to monitor the situation.

Undeserved award?

The extensive security umbrella surrounding Obama’s one-day visit is in great contrast with the lack of interest back in the US. Most Americans think that their president doesn’t deserve the prize, according to FRANCE 24's Washington correspondent, Guillaume Meyer.

“Only 26% of Americans say that Obama deserves this award, they think it’s a bit premature (...) Americans just want their president to take care of domestic problems. Obama understands that, and that’s why he’s doing an express visit, only a few hours in Oslo to collect his prize and do his speech before returning to Washington,” says Meyer.

Obama’s acceptance speech is expected to address the rather ironic timing of his collecting a prize for peace as he renews America's commitment to the Afghan war. The US president, who is also commander-in-chief of the US military, will collect his prize only nine days after ordering 30,000 extra troops in a major military escalation aiming at breaking the Taliban momentum.

Date created : 2009-12-10