Jimmy Carter wins Nobel Peace Prize for `untiring efforts'

1978 Camp David Accords, human rights work noted in committee's citation

Chairman criticizes Bush on war

October 12, 2002|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Former President Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday for his "untiring efforts" to solve international conflicts peacefully, an approach the prize committee's chairman pointedly contrasted with President Bush's threats to wage war against Iraq.

Carter, a Democrat who served a single term in the White House from 1977 to 1981, earned the award for brokering peace between Israel and Egypt in 1978, championing human rights and working since leaving office to resolve conflicts, combat disease, promote democracy and help poor countries prosper, the Nobel Committee said in its citation.

The citation also said, in an indirect jab at Bush: "In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international cooperation based on international law, respect for human rights, and economic development."

Chairman Gunnar Berge made clear the prize was both a tribute to Carter and a rebuke to Bush.

"It [the award] should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken," Berge told reporters in Oslo, Norway, where the committee is based. "It's a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States."

The Associated Press reported that other judges were distancing themselves from Berge's comments. "We didn't discuss what sort of interpretation of the grounds there should be," Hanna Kvanmo told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

The prize was announced just hours after Congress voted overwhelmingly to authorize Bush to take military action to disarm Iraq, which the president says poses a grave threat to this country by trying to develop a nuclear device and building up its arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

In an interview with CNN, Carter, 78, was circumspect on Iraq. "I don't want to comment specifically on President Bush's policies," he said, "but I do think that in every way before we go into a war of any kind we should exhaust all other alternatives including negotiation, mediation or, if that's not possible in the case of Iraq, working through the United Nations." He said he would have voted against the congressional resolution.

At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer refused to respond to the Nobel Committee chairman's statement.

"The president thinks that this is a great day for President Jimmy Carter and an important moment," Fleischer said. Bush called Carter at 7 a.m. to congratulate him, and the two spoke for a few minutes, the spokesman said.

Carter is the third U.S. president to win the prize. Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are the others.

It was a triumphant moment for a man whose career since leaving the White House has in the view of many outshone his presidency, which was marred by double-digit inflation, high interest rates, a 444-day hostage ordeal and an energy crisis that forced American motorists into long gas lines.

Naval Academy

Carter, America's 39th president and the only Naval Academy graduate to rise to the White House, takes pride in the absence of war during his tenure.

His fervent belief in the power of persuasion and nonmilitary pressure to end conflicts was dramatically vindicated at Camp David in 1978, when over the course of two arduous weeks he brokered a land-for-peace deal between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

This agreement, which cracked the wall of Arab hostility that had threatened the Jewish state since its founding, has endured through more than two decades of regional strife.

The Nobel Committee noted yesterday that Camp David alone would have qualified him for the peace prize.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's national security adviser, said the award "undoes a gross injustice" that occurred in 1978, when the prize went to Begin and Sadat, but not Carter. The reason given since then was that those who nominated Carter failed to complete the necessary paperwork in time.

"The award also conveys a significant contemporary message," Brzezinski added: "The Middle Eastern problem cannot be solved by neglect." He referred to what critics of the Bush administration describe as its episodic involvement toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a reluctance to push Israel toward negotiations.

William Quandt, a former Carter aide who participated at Camp David, said the former president was propelled in part by "a streak of real idealism that allowed him to feel the possibility of peace when others didn't," as well as a mastery of detail and persistence. "He wouldn't give up," Quandt said.

Peaceful approaches

Always reluctant to brandish American military power, Carter relied on peaceful approaches to the point where critics said he was undermining American influence and credibility overseas.

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