Carter wins Nobel Peace Prize
OSLO, Norway (CNN) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for his worldwide peace and human rights work in an award seen as criticising Washington's drive to oust Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
Carter, Democratic president from 1977 to 1981, has won praise for his tireless work as a president and after leaving office 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."
The committee made reference in its citation to current world events that may see the United States take military action against Iraq.
The announcement of the award came only hours after the U.S. House and Senate gave President George W. Bush authorisation to use military force against Iraq in order to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring that Baghdad give up weapons of mass destruction.
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.
"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," Berge said.
"It's a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States."
However, other Nobel committee members distanced themselves from Berge's criticism of Bush, saying he was expressing a personal opinion and that such criticism was not part of the discussions leading to the prize.
"In the committee, we didn't discuss what sort of interpretation of the grounds there should be. It wasn't a topic," committee member Hanna Kvanmo was quoted as telling the Norwegian news agency NTB.
In an interview on Friday with CNN's Larry King, Carter said he would have voted against the Senate resolution authorising force but that he thinks Bush will handle the situation the right way.
Carter said he recognizes that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein poses a real threat to the world, and some action must be taken.
"I would have voted no had I been in the Senate," he said. "I think it should all be done through the U.N. and not unilaterally by the United States."
But the 101st recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize -- and the third U.S. president to be so honoured -- said he trusts that Bush will do just that.
"The administration has come a long way in the last few weeks," he said.
Carter, 78, told CNN he was called by the committee at 4:30 a.m., about 30 minutes before he normally gets up. He said he did not mind getting the early wake-up call.
"Obviously, I'm very grateful to the Nobel Committee for choosing me. 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."
He 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 accord, but his presidency faltered under the weight of the Iran hostage crisis.
Carter told a news conference on Friday that he would give most of the $1 million prize to the Carter Center, which he founded after losing his 1980 re-election bid to Ronald Reagan.
He said he shared the honour with his wife, Rosalynn, and the staff at the Carter Center.
"When I left the White House I was a fairly young man and I realised I maybe have 25 more years of active life," Carter said, "so we capitalised on the influence that I had as a former president of the greatest nation in the world and decided to fill vacuums."
Carter, who has four children, has spent the last two decades travelling around the globe monitoring elections, promoting human rights, and helping provide health care and food to the world's poor.
He won the 2002 peace prize from a record field of 156 candidates -- 117 individuals and 39 groups -- vying for the honour named after 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 to congratulate Carter saying 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 peace prize announcement caps a week of awards, with prizes for literature, medicine, physics, chemistry and economics already announced in Sweden's capital, Stockholm.