The decision to award one of the world's top accolades to a president less than nine months into his first term, who has yet to score a major foreign policy success, came as a big surprise and provoked strong international criticism as well as praise.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Obama for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
The first African-American to hold his country's highest office, Obama has called for disarmament and worked to restart the stalled Middle East peace process since taking office in January.
"Very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said in a citation.
(...) The chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, welcomed the award to Obama and expressed hope that "he will be able to achieve peace in the Middle East."
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader and a Nobel Prize winner himself, said: "I am happy. What Obama did during his presidency is a big signal, he gave a hope. In these hard times people who are capable of taking responsibility, who have a vision, commitment and political will should be supported."
But some Arab and Muslim reaction was fiercely critical.
"Obama's winning the peace prize shows these prizes are political, not governed by the principles of credibility, values and morals," said an Islamic Jihad leader, Khaled Al-Batsh.
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