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'Great Joy' as Word Spreads : Peace Prize a Surprise for U.N. Troops

September 29, 1988|Associated Press

JERUSALEM — U.N. peacekeepers today radioed word of their Nobel Peace Prize victory to battalions in battle-scarred Lebanon and cracked open bottles of champagne in Jerusalem to celebrate the prestigious award.

Spokesmen said the prize would give a boost to U.N. efforts to contain global conflicts.

"There is great joy. This came as a pleasant surprise," Timor Goksel, spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, said in a telephone interview from Naqoura, Lebanon. "The international community has finally given appropriate recognition to all the sacrifices our people have made."

"We just got the news," Lt. Col. Gerry McMahon, 52, of Newbridge, Ireland, said by phone. "We are sending it by radio to various battalions. It's the fastest way to get it out to everyone."

McMahon, a senior operations officer, said the peacekeepers often feel that their job is a thankless one "but we get used to that after a few years. It may not make world headlines, but every day you have a small achievement on the ground."

Goksel said 100,000 men and women from 15 countries have served in UNIFIL "under very difficult circumstances" since it was formed in 1978. Of those, 156 troops have been killed, 230 were wounded in action and two are missing, he said.

In Jerusalem, Tony French, a spokesman for the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, said: "Any acclamation and recognition of the U.N.'s valuable role helps to assist the U.N. in peacekeeping and as a world forum for peace."

U.N. officials in Finland, which contributes more peacekeeping troops than any other country, said they hope that the prize will induce members to pay their bills for the financially ailing forces.

Lt. Gen. Martin Vadset, chief of staff of the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, said: "We have, so to speak, lived through all the wars you can think of, and one might say that we have been unsuccessful in not preventing them.

"(But) I think we have been successful in being available to try to minimize disaster when it first broke out."

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