Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

The president was given the prestigious award for his role in strengthening cooperation around the world and his efforts for ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009, making him the 108th recipient of the prestigious award.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Friday it chose Obama because of his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen diplomacy and cooperation" among nations. The committee also called out the president's efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

"The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations," said the committee in a statement. "Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climactic challenges the world is facing."

The announcement was a surprise -- Obama's name had not been mentioned among front-runners -- and the roomful of reporters in Oslo, Norway, gasped when he was named.

Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, last year's Peace Prize laureate, said it was clear the Nobel committee wanted to encourage Obama on the issues he has been discussing on the world stage.

The award comes at a crucial time for Obama, who currently has administration officials dispatched on global peace missions.

Obama's envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, has returned to the region to advocate for peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mitchell met Thursday with Israeli President Shimon Peres. He plans to meet Friday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before talking with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton starts a six-day trip to Europe and Russia on Friday to generate international cooperation in moving Iran and North Korea toward ending their nuclear programs.

Obama is only the fourth U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize and the third one to be given the prize while still in office. Jimmy Carter received the award in 2002 for his "decades of untiring efforts" toward peaceful solutions in conflicts around the globe.

Woodrow Wilson, who was president from 1913 to 1921, won the prize in 1919 for developing a 14-point plan for worldwide peace talks.

Theodore Roosevelt, who was in the White House from 1901-1909, won the award in 1906 for his role in mediating a bloody dispute between Russia and Japan that resulted in the Treaty of Portsmouth.

This year's Peace Prize nominees included 172 people and 33 organizations, the highest number of nominations ever.

The Nobel recipient receives a prize of about $1.4 million. The Peace Prize has been awarded 89 times since 1901. On 19 occasions, including during World War I and World War II, no prizes were awarded.

-- CNN Wires contributed to this report. To top of page

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