Global mediator Ahtisaari wins Nobel Peace Prize
Saturday, 11 October 2008

REUTERS, OSLO- Finland's former president Martti Ahtisaari won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for a decades-long career of peacemaking around the globe from Namibia to Kosovo.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee chose Ahtisaari to receive the $1.4 million prize from a field of 197 candidates "for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts."
 
"These efforts have contributed to a more peaceful world and to 'fraternity between nations' in Alfred Nobel's spirit," the award committee said in its citation, adding it hoped the award would inspire other peacemakers around the world.
 
Sweden's Nobel, the philanthropist and inventor of dynamite, created the prizes in his will in 1895.
 
Ahtisaari, aged 71 and who was Finland's president from 1994 to 2000, has for years been a favourite to win what many consider the world's top accolade.
 
"He has been one of the top trouble-shooters for the United Nations for more than a generation," said Jan Egeland, a Norwegian former head of UN emergency relief operations.
 
In 2005, Ahtisaari brokered peace between Indonesia and rebels in Aceh province to end 30 years of fighting. Until March last year he led Serb-Albanian talks on Kosovo as UN envoy.
 
He was architect of a European Union-backed plan for Kosovo's independence from Serbia which guaranteed Serb minority rights and was implemented bloodlessly after the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
 
"In 1989-90 he played a significant part in the establishment of Namibia's independence," the committee said.
 
"In 2005 he and his organisation Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) were central to the solution of the complicated Aceh question in Indonesia."
 
"In 1999 and again in 2005-07, he sought under especially difficult circumstances to find a solution to the conflict in Kosovo," the committee said.
 
POINT MAN
 
Ahtisaari was point man for Western Europe and the United States in 1999, delivering NATO's peace terms to then Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to end the Kosovo air campaign.
 
Starting in the 1970s as a U.N. official, he helped Namibia move to independence, finally achieved in 1990.
 
"Naturally I am very pleased by the decision," Ahtisaari told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
 
"Namibia was absolutely the most important because it took such a long time," he said, but said his work in Aceh and the Balkans were also among the most significant.
 
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was delighted to hear Ahtisaari had won the prize, a spokesman said.
 
"We have known him to be a man of honour, a man of integrity and a man who not only has full devotion to the cost of peace but also has the rare talents to help make it to practical priority on the ground," the spokesman said.
 
The prize "underlines the importance of continuous and stubborn work towards peace in the Balkans," said European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, a fellow Finn responsible for the Balkans.
 
"He is a professional diplomat and a very skilful negotiator," Serbia's former Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said. "However in Serbia he represents a symbol of Kosovo's independence and he will be remembered as an architect of Kosovo's secession."
 
Former Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku said: "The prize has gone to the man that deserves it."
 
The award was seen as a swing back to the core values of the prize in peacemaking and disarmament after a prize last year to former US Vice President Al Gore for work on global warming.
 
Ahtisaari is the first peace broker to win since former US President Jimmy Carter in 2004.

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