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Nobel Peace Prize reaction: Taliban thumbs down, Israeli thumbs up, Asian disappointment

October 9, 2009 |  3:11 pm

Around the world, reaction to President Obama's surprising selection to receive the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize has been as varied as in this country, and perhaps as partisan.

The English-language version of Al Jazeera, the Arab news service, posted a drawing of Obama as Superman -- (Irony? You be the judge) -- and posed the question: "But after less than a year in office does the U.S. president deserve the award? Is the decision a clever political move by the Nobel committee? Will it help or hinder Obama's presidency?"

Superman A commenter from Pakistan responded: "I think this Nobel prize goes to Obama as a result of favouritism and internal politics. I just don’t get what has he done to bring peace. Does anyone know that America has been using the internationally banned phosphorus bomb in Iraq…It is still being used....If Pakistan was to be using it, America would launch a direct attack on us."

The Jerusalem Post reported: "Reactions to U.S. President Barack Obama's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday were mostly positive as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised him for the achievement while Hamas leader Ismail Hanieyh said that the occasion meant little for the Palestinians."

Netanyahu was particularly effusive in a note he sent Obama, reported the Post: "You have given inspiration to people all over the world until now and winning this prize is an expression of the hope that your presidency will promote a new era of peace and placation."

Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip on Friday said his group heard Obama's speeches seeking better relations with the Islamic world but had not been moved. "We are in need of actions, not sayings," Haniyeh said. "If there is no fundamental and true change in American policies toward the acknowledgment of the rights of the Palestinian people, I think this prize won't move us forward or backward."

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the Taliban was underwhelmed.

According to Reuters, "The Taliban mocked the award, saying it was absurd to give it to Obama when he had ordered 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan this year. 'The Nobel prize for peace? Obama should have won the "Nobel prize for escalating violence and killing civilians," ' said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman."

Voice of America reported that many people in Asia were disappointed that the prize did not go to two well-known Chinese dissidents, which would have refocused attention on the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests that were brutally put down by the government.

"Of course, I congratulate President Obama. But I still feel sorry for Chinese dissidents because they didn't win the prize," said Wang Dan, a Tiananmen Square protester who spent years "in and out of jail" and was exiled to the U.S. in 1998, where he is now a visiting assistant professor of history at Chengchi University on Taiwan.

Wang also said that giving the prize to the dissidents might have done more for world peace, Voice of America reported. "This is a crucial time for the whole world, and the Chinese," Wang noted. "China, as a rising power, really needs democracy. So the Peace Prize can be a great encouragement for democracy of China. And the democratization of China will be the greatest contribution for world peace."

-- Robin Abcarian

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