President Obama awarded Nobel Peace Prize

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Barack Obama in 2008. (Image: Flickr user jurvetson (cc: by-nc-sa))

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President Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

BBC correspondent Lars Bevanger, reporting from Oslo, said there was some surprise in the room when the announcement was made. "Obama, we knew he was nominated, but nobody really took it seriously because after all he has been in power for nine months and he hasn't had that much time to prove himself as a peacemaker, so that was a surprise."

At a Q&A session, Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland was "quite pressed" by the media about the decision, says Bevanger.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," Jagland explained.

Alan Cowell is correspondent at the "New York Times" and longtime observer of the Nobel Committee. He says in awarding President Obama the Peace prize, the Nobel Committee is highlighting the shift in the international climate that his presidency symbolizes.

"I'm quite sure there will be people who'll say this was a way of rewarding the American people for the change from the Bush administration and the international approval that it drew for the United States."

Professor Paul Martin, director of Human Rights Studies at Barnard College, agrees and sees the choice of President Obama as serving a broader goal: "This is a symbolic, visionary gesture, not focused on any specific event.

"There's an amazing degree to which he is seen as something of a prophet around the world, so that's the context of the choice that I see."

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