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IN THE NEWS - Obama, Faced With Two Wars, Wins Peace Prize

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This was the surprise announcement Friday from Oslo, Norway:

THORBJOERN JAGLAND, CHAIRMAN: "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for two thousand nine is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

And in Washington this was the reaction:

President Obama speaks about winning the Nobel Prize Friday
President Obama speaks about winning the Nobel Prize Friday

BARACK OBAMA: "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize -- men and women who have inspired me, and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace. But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build."

In the United States and around the world, there was praise for the decision, but also criticism. Some suggested that the Nobel committee acted too soon. The last day for nominations was February first, less than two weeks after the president took office.

Past winners included American presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Jimmy Carter and vice president Al Gore were honored after their terms. The prize, worth almost a million and a half dollars, will be awarded in Oslo in December.

The announcement came the same week as the eighth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. President Obama spent the week in a series of meetings to consider future policy in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Administration officials say they expect decisions within a few weeks.

They suggest that he is considering a "middle ground." His top commander in Afghanistan is reportedly asking for as many as forty thousand additional troops. General Stanley McChrystal has warned that without more troops, the United States could lose the war.

But Vice President Joe Biden supports a proposal to narrowly target military efforts at al-Qaida, using unmanned aircraft and special forces.

The American-led invasion eight years ago removed the Taliban government that sheltered Osama bin Laden. His al-Qaida group carried out the terrorist attacks on the United States on September eleventh, two thousand one. Days later, on October seventh, President George W. Bush announced the start of the war.

Today the war is the second longest in American history, after Vietnam. In March, President Obama approved twenty-one thousand more troops. Operations have intensified. More than four hundred American and coalition troops have been killed so far this year, more than during all of last year.

There are also the accusations of widespread cheating in the August twentieth presidential election. The results of a partial recount are expected to be announced next week.

Public opinion surveys show falling support among Americans for the war. Forty-eight percent of people in a USA Today/Gallup Poll taken this week said the president should send more troops to Afghanistan. Thirty-eight percent said he should begin to withdraw troops. Seven percent said the number should remain the same.

And there is still the war in Iraq. The goal is to withdraw all combat troops by next September, but leave thousands of troops to train Iraqi forces.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.

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