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Nobel panelists defend award to Obama

Four of the five Norwegian committee members speak out on an award they say was merited and unanimous. One notes the president's seeming unhappiness; another calls critics of the choice patronizing.

October 14, 2009|Associated Press

OSLO — One judge noted with surprise that President Obama "didn't look particularly happy" about being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Another marveled over how critics could be so patronizing.

Four of the Nobel jury's five judges spoke Tuesday about a selection they said was both merited and unanimous.

Some say a Nobel is too much too soon in Obama's young presidency.

"We simply disagree. . . . He got the prize for what he has done," said committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland. He singled out Obama's efforts to heal the divide between the West and the Muslim world and scale down a Bush-era proposal for a missile shield in Europe.

For nine-year Nobel committee veteran Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, Obama's demeanor when he acknowledged the award spoke volumes. "I looked at his face when he was on TV and confirmed that he would receive the prize and would come to Norway, and he didn't look particularly happy," she said.

She said that there was a risk the prize might backfire, raising expectations and giving ammunition to his critics.

Jagland said the committee followed the guidelines set forth by Alfred Nobel, who established the prize.

"Alfred Nobel wrote that the prize should go to the person who has contributed most to the development of peace in the previous year," Jagland said. "Who has done more for that than Barack Obama?"

Aagot Valle, a left-wing Norwegian politician, dismissed suggestions that Obama was undeserving.

"Don't you think that comments like that patronize Obama? Where do these people come from?" Valle said.

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