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'World champion' of peace honored

As a diplomat, U.N. envoy and representative of various groups, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari has helped resolve disputes involving delicate matters of ethnicity, religion and race.

Associated Press

As a diplomat, U.N. envoy and representative of various groups, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari has helped resolve disputes involving delicate matters of ethnicity, religion and race.

OSLO, Norway — Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who has been a tireless mediator in conflicts around the world for more than three decades, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday and expressed hope that the prize will help him raise funds for further peacemaking in hot spots to come.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee picked Ahtisaari, 71, from a 197-name list of nominees including jailed Chinese dissidents and the recently liberated Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

Leaving aside headline-grabbing figures, the committee honored a former schoolteacher and diplomat known for indefatigable persistence in negotiations to bring peaceful closes to wars in countries including Namibia, Indonesia, Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland.

"He is a world champion when it comes to peace, and he never gives up," said Ole Danbolt Mjoes, the awards committee chairman.

As a Finnish diplomat, a U.N. envoy and the representative of various negotiating groups, he has led humanitarian missions, presided over contentious talks between sworn enemies and helped resolve disputes involving delicate matters of ethnicity, religion and race.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee called Ahtisaari "an outstanding international mediator" whose efforts "have contributed to a more peaceful world and to 'fraternity between nations' in Alfred Nobel's spirit."

The $1.4-million prize will be formally awarded in Oslo on Dec. 10. The annual Nobel recognitions, particularly the peace prize, have become the world's most prestigious awards.

China's Communist Party rulers were likely to be particularly pleased by the choice this year. A jailed Chinese activist, Hu Jia, was rumored to be on the short list as the Norwegian committee weighed its decision.

Ahtisaari, interviewed by Norway's NRK television, expressed gratitude for the honor, in reserved tones that seemed to arise from his years as a negotiator rather than a moment of celebration.

Demonstrating the practical bent that has characterized his career, he said the recognition should make it easier to raise funds for his international mediation organization in Helsinki, Crisis Management Initiative.

The longtime international mediator was most recently in the spotlight for his efforts to broker a peaceful resolution for Kosovo as it sought to become independent from Serbia.

>>Biography

About Martti Ahtisaari

Early years: A primary school teacher, Martti Ahtisaari joined Finland's Foreign Ministry in 1965. He spent 20 years abroad, first as ambassador to Tanzania and then to the United Nations in New York.

1987 to 1991: U.N. undersecretary of state for administration and management, heading the U.N. operation that brought independence to Namibia in 1990.

1992 to 1993: Chairman of the Bosnia-Herzegovina working group in the international peace conference on the former Yugoslavia. He insisted he would not go to Belgrade unless NATO, the European Union and Russia could agree on a Bosnia peace plan that also was palatable to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic accepted the terms, thus opening up a peace deal.

1991 to 1994: Secretary of state in the Finnish Foreign Ministry.

1994: Elected president for a six-year term. After that, opened his own office in Helsinki, which has focused on international crises.

August 2005: Helped end 30 years of fighting between Aceh rebels and the Indonesian government with peace talks in Finland, which he initiated and mediated. A peace agreement was signed in Helsinki.

2007: Ahtisaari's office — Crisis Management Initiative — started secret meetings in Finland between Iraqi Sunni and Shiite groups to agree on a road map to peace. Sixteen delegates from the feuding groups agreed to consult further.

Associated Press

'World champion' of peace honored 10/10/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 3:27pm]
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