Nobel secretary regrets Obama peace prize

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Geir Lundestad stepped down in 2014 as secretary of the Nobel committee
The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama in 2009 failed to live up to expectations, the committee's ex-secretary has said.
In his memoir, Secretary of Peace, Geir Lundestad said the committee expected the prize to be a boost to Mr Obama.Instead, the decision was met with criticism in the US. Many argued he had not had any impact worthy of the award.Mr Obama himself said he was surprised and even some of his supporters thought it a mistake, Mr Lundestad said.The US president apparently considered not going to pick up the award in Norway's capital, Oslo, with his staff enquiring whether other winners had skipped the ceremony.But they found that this has happened only on rare occasions, such as when dissidents were held back by their governments."In the White House they quickly realised that they needed to travel to Oslo," Mr Lundestad wrote.Mr Lundestad served as the committee's influential, but non-voting, secretary from 1990 to 2015.He has broken with the tradition of the secretive committee, whose members rarely discuss proceedings.
Other insights

The book also gives other insights into the activities of the committee:

  • According to Mr Lundestad, Jonas Gahr Store, then Norway's foreign minister, tried in 2010 to dissuade the panel from awarding the prize to a Chinese dissident, fearing it would strain the country's relationship with Beijing. The Nobel committee ignored the warnings and honoured Liu Xiaobo.
  • Mr Lundestad also criticises Thorbjorn Jagland, who was the committee chairman for six years and is now a regular member. He said that as a former Norwegian prime minister, Mr Jagland should never have been appointed to the committee, which frequently stresses its independence.
  • In an amusing anecdote, Mr Lundestad relates how he found Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who won the award in 1994, watching an episode of the Tom and Jerry cartoon in his hotel with other Palestine Liberation Organisation members. "It was made very clear that they intended to watch until the end," he said.

This year's Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on October 9.