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Former Finland President Wins Nobel Peace Prize
Ahtisaari ... thought himself disqualified
PARIS, October 11, 2008 – The great and the good of world diplomacy saluted the conflict resolution efforts of Martti Ahtisaari and said that there could be no worthier recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner praised the 71-year-old Finnish diplomat for “his courageous and determined action” to bring peace to Namibia , Kosovo , Indonesia 's Aceh and other world trouble spots.
“The Nobel Committee is paying tribute to the exceptional commitment of a man who has served peace in the world,” Kouchner said in a statement.
Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, himself a Nobel peace laureate in 2001, said he had telephoned Ahtisaari to personally congratulate the Finn on the 10mn-kronor (1.02mn-euro, $1.42mn) award.
“No one better than he could win the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the only man I know who has made peace on three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe and I always found him ready to answer the call to make this world a better place,” Annan said.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono lauded Ahtisaari for overseeing a 2005 peace agreement between his government and rebels in the breakaway province of Aceh , ending a three-decade conflict that killed 15,000 people.
“SBY (Yudhyono) wants to say his congratulations to Ahtisaari. Ahtisaari is the right choice to receive the Nobel prize,” presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal told reporters.
“Ahtisaari is fair, tough, solution-oriented and we keep following his work. It means this man is a champion of peace,” Djalal said.
The newest Nobel laureate also won unsurprising praise from Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu for helping lead the territory toward independence. “He is a man who has done a great job for peace in the different regions of the world,” Sejdiu told reporters, adding that the award was “more than deserved, without any doubt”.
There was angry condemnation however from the brother of late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, a fierce opponent of Kosovo's independence.
Many Serbs complain that Ahtisaari was biased after talks on Kosovo ended without agreement and the Finn recommended “internationally supervised independence” for the disputed Balkan territory.
“It's rare for the Nobel Prize to be used for political goals, this is one of those,” Borislav Milosevic, the former Yugoslav ambassador to Russia , told Echo of Moscow radio.
“I'm distressed by this decision and I do not consider Ahtisaari a deserving winner,” he said.
The criticism from Milosevic was however a lone voice amidst a chorus of approval for the Ahtisaari award. Praise centered on the Finn's renowned skills as a mediator.
“In all of his missions, Marti Ahtisaari showed an ability to lead the difficult task of ensuring that the rights of each community and each person are respected and to lay the foundations of co-existence and, when the time is right, of reconciliation to prepare a lasting peace,” said Kouchner.
The award of such a prize to Ahtisaari would “contribute to advancing the cause of conflict resolution,” his statement said.
Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen both congratulated Finland 's first Peace Prize laureate, with Vanhanen saying “his commitment to peace and human rights is remarkable”.
As for the man himself: “I'm surprised that the Norwegians can make such a decision. I thought that the fact that I have 12.5% Norwegian blood would have disqualified me,” Ahtisaari said, referring to a Norwegian great grandfather. – AFP