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World: Nobel Committee Honors Man Of Peace Under Shadow Of War

  • Don Hill

Prague, 10 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- As the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, prepares for the possibility of war against Iraq, the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, stood up today in Oslo, Norway, to accept the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

Carter's citation mentions not only his efforts as U.S. president to bring peace to the Middle East but also his numerous peacemaking missions since leaving office.

Carter, a member of the Democratic Party, has repeatedly and publicly urged Bush, a Republican, to avoid war in Iraq by working through the United Nations.

In his remarks today as he accepted the award, Carter warned against the policy of launching preemptive military strikes in the name of preventing future attacks, as Washington has articulated in its justification for a possible action against Iraq. "We must remember that, today, there are at least eight nuclear nations on Earth. And three of these are threatening to their own neighbors in areas of great international tension. For powerful countries to adopt a principle of preventive war may well set an example that can have catastrophic consequences," Carter said.

The rest of Carter's acceptance remarks, however, were spoken from a broader perspective. "War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children," Carter said.

Nevertheless, the shadow of a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq lay over the Norwegian Nobel Committee's presentation ceremony today. The chairman of the committee, Gunnar Berge, first set the tone two months ago when he announced the committee's choice. "In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must be, as far as possible, resolved through mediation and international cooperation based on international law, respect for human rights, and economic development," Berge said.

Lest anyone miss the point, Berge added that the award "should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current [U.S.] administration of [President George W. Bush] has taken" toward Iraq.

Carter, who is 76 years old, has had multiple careers. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1946 and became a nuclear submariner. When his father died in 1953, he left the navy to take over the family's peanut-farming business in the southern U.S. state of Georgia. He was elected to the state Senate 10 years later, became governor of Georgia in 1971 and U.S. president five years after that.

The highlight of his presidency was leading negotiations that resulted in the 1978 Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt. The low point was when Iranian student militants attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held members of the embassy staff hostage. The hostages were released only after Ronald Reagan succeeded Carter as president in 1981.

Since his presidency, Carter has served as a peace mediator in conflicts around the world. He has also worked tirelessly in efforts to provide housing for the poor.

In his acceptance speech, Carter noted that, since his presidency, the world has been left with only one superpower: the United States. He said that Washington's voice often prevails as decisions are made about trade, humanitarian assistance, and the allocation of global wealth. But, Carter said, the result has been less than universally positive. "Instead of entering a millennium of peace, the world is now, in many ways, a more dangerous place. The greater ease of travel and communication has not been matched by equal understanding and mutual respect. There is a plethora of civil wars, unrestrained by rules of the Geneva convention, within which an overwhelming portion of the casualties are unarmed civilians who have no ability to defend themselves. And recent appalling acts of terrorism have reminded us that no nations, even superpowers, are invulnerable," Carter said.

Carter today called on Israel to withdraw from occupied Palestinian lands in accordance with UN Resolution 242. "For more than half a century, following the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, the Middle East conflict has been a source of worldwide tension and conflict itself. At Camp David in 1978 and in Oslo in 1993, Israelis, Egyptians, and Palestinians have endorsed the only reasonable prescription for peace: United Nations Resolution 242. It condemns the acquisition of territory by force, and it calls for the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories and provides for Israelis to live securely and in harmony with their neighbors. There is no other mandate whose implementation could more profoundly improve international relationships," Carter said.

He also called on Iraq to abandon its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.

The Nobel prizes, first awarded in 1901, were created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in his will and are always presented on 10 December, the anniversary of his death in 1896.