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Obama's Nobel Peace Prize hailed and questioned

By Gregory KatzThe Associated Press / October 9, 2009

President Barack Obama watches as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands, in this Sept. 22 file photo taken at a meeting in New York.

Charles Dharapak/AP/File

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The surprise choice of President Barack Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize drew praise from much of the world Friday even as many pointed out the youthful leader has not yet accomplished much on the world stage.The new president was hailed for his willingness to reach out to the Islamic world, his commitment to curtailing the spread of nuclear weapons and his goal of bringing the Israelis and Palestinians into serious, fruitful negotiations.

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who won the prize 1984, said Obama's award shows great things are expected from him in the coming years.

"In a way, it's an award coming near the beginning of the first term of office of a relatively young president that anticipates an even greater contribution towards making our world a safer place for all," he said. "It is an award that speaks to the promise of President Obama's message of hope."

He said the prize is a "wonderful recognition of Obama's effort to reach out to the Arab world after years of hostility.

Another former Nobel winner, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, said Obama has already provided outstanding leadership in the effort to prevent nuclear proliferation.

"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," ElBaradei said. "He has shown an unshakable commitment to diplomacy, mutual respect and dialogue as the best means of resolving conflicts. He has reached out across divides and made clear that he sees the world as one human family, regardless of religion, race or ethnicity."

Still, some said the award came too soon, in light of the lack of tangible progress toward the vital goals of bringing peace to the Middle East, persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions and improving relations with North Korea.

"The award is premature," said Eugene Rogan, director of the Middle East Center at Oxford University in England. "He hasn't done anything yet. But he's made clear from the start of his presidency his commitment to promote peace. No doubt the Nobel committee hopes the award will enhance his moral authority to advance the cause of peace while he's still president."

Reaction was far more muted in some Islamic countries. In Pakistan's central city of Multan, radical Islamic leader Hanif Jalandhri said he was neither happy nor surprised by Obama's award.

"But I do hope that Obama will make efforts to work for peace, and he will try to scrap the policies of (former U.S. President George) Bush who put the world peace in danger," said Jalandhri, the secretary general of a group that oversees 12,500 seminaries. "This prize has tripled Obama's responsibilities, and we can hope that he will try to prove through his actions that he deserved this honor."

Associated Press Writers Celean Jacobson in Johannesburg and Khalid Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan contributed to this story.

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