Jimmy Carter wins Nobel Peace Prize
OSLO, Norway (CNN) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for what presenters cited as decades of work seeking peaceful solutions and promoting social and economic justice.
Carter, Democratic president from 1977 to 1981, has won praise for his tireless work as an ex-president in trying to bring peace to places from Haiti to North Korea.
Announcing the winner on Friday, the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Carter's decades of "untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."
Carter, 78, told CNN he was called by the committee at 4:30 a.m., about 30 minutes before he normally gets up.
"Obviously, I'm very grateful to the Nobel Committee for choosing me," Carter said. "I think they've announced very clearly that the work of the Carter Center has been a wonderful contribution to the world for the last 20 years."
The former president has said that the Carter Center, an Atlanta, Georgia-based organization devoted to global peace and social justice, may be his greatest legacy.
Carter has been repeatedly nominated for the prize, worth $1 million, and came close to winning in 1978 when he brought Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat together to sign the Camp David Peace Accords, but his presidency faltered under the weight of the Iran hostage crisis.
The Carter Center was founded after he left the White House in 1981 after losing his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan.
"When I left the White House I was a fairly young man and I realized I maybe have 25 more years of active life," Carter said, "so we capitalized on the influence that I had as a former president of the greatest nation in the world and decided to fill vacuums."
Carter, who is married with four children, has spent the past two decades traveling around the globe monitoring elections, promoting human rights, and providing health care and food to the world's poor.
The peace prize announcement caps a week of awards, with prizes for literature, medicine, physics, chemistry and economics already announced in Sweden's capital, Stockholm.
He won the 2002 peace prize from a record field of 156 candidates -- 117 individuals and 39 groups -- vying for the honor named for Alfred Nobel, a Swedish philanthropist and inventor of dynamite. The list of nominees remains secret for 50 years, but those who nominate sometimes announce their choice.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, also a candidate for the prize, was one of the first people to congratulate Carter and said he was happy to be among the candidates.
"After the 23 years of war and disaster in Afghanistan, to be known for peace is really nice and enjoyable, but I believe President Carter deserved it," Karzai said, minutes after the official announcement.
"[Carter] had many, many years of work for peace in a very concerted way, in a very human way, and I congratulate him, he deserved it better than I. I'll try for next year," Karzai added.
The announcement of the award came only hours after the U.S. House and Senate gave President George W. Bush authorization to use military force against Iraq in order to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring that Baghdad give up weapons of mass destruction.
In an interview with CNN, Carter declined to address the situation with Iraq, saying instead he would rather focus on the peace prize.
Asked if the selection of the former president was a criticism of Bush, Gunnar Berge, head of the Nobel committee, said: "With the position Carter has taken on this, it can and must also be seen as criticism of the line the current U.S. administration has taken on Iraq."
The committee made reference in its citation to current world events that may see the United States take military action against Iraq.
"In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international cooperation based on international law, respect for human rights and economic development," the Nobel Committee said.