World Divided on Obama The Nobel Peace Laureate

When the chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee announced this morning that President Obama had won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize the news was received with a collective gasp from the room full of journalists.

Around the world the announcement was received with similar surprise and divided reactions. His allies applauded the choice, while his critics questioned his qualifications.

For many in the two countries that have most recently seen U.S. military intervention, Afghanistan and Iraq, an award for peace to a president still at war is anathema.

"The peace award which has been given to Barack Obama is not right because under Obama, a lot of civilians have died here in the bombing," Abdul Rasoul, a resident of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, said.

Afghans are questioning Obama's receipt of a medal that rewards efforts to broker peace when violence has increased there since he became president. This year has been the most violent year of the war for both civilians and troops.

The Taliban echoed this sentiment in a statement that condemned the award.

"He reinforces the war in Afghanistan, he sent more troops to Afghanistan and is considering sending yet more. He has shed Afghan blood and he continues to bleed Afghans and to boost the war here," the Taliban said.

There is, however, a widespread hope in Afghanistan that a president who has reached out to the Muslim world can figure out a way to tackle the growing insurgency there. Many Afghans ABC News spoke to today -- especially the better educated -- believe that even if Obama hasn't brought peace yet, he will.

Across the border in Pakistan, however, there is huge mistrust of the United States right now. Anti-Americanism is running rampant as coverage of the Kerry-Lugar bill to boost nonmilitary aid to Pakistan portrays the bill as an invasion of Pakistan's sovereignty.

Pakistanis are much more critical of Obama than Afghans, arguing that he has brought more violence to the country. As Muhammad Munir asked ABC News in Islamabad today: "There are killings all over the world, whether it's Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine or Kashmir. Who is doing the killing? They [Americans] are doing it. But he is getting peace prizes as well?"

The View From Baghdad

In the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, the news was met with similar disapproval by some.

"He doesn't deserve it. What has he done so far? He has done nothing for the world. The U.S. is still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, he does nothing but make promises," Jenan Ali, a 39-year-old housewife in Baghdad complained.

Not everyone in Iraq, the country that arguably suffered the most from the previous administration's foreign policy, was against the decision.

"For the first time, we see a U.S. president taking a respectful approach towards Islam and Muslims. The approach is different from those who preceded him. He has a peaceful vision for the world," Sarmad Abbas, a 31-year-old Iraqi, said praising the president.

Across the globe in Seoul, South Korea, the opinions were also divided. "What did he do to win the Nobel Peace Prize?" asked 30-year-old engineer In-Yong Hwang. "The news was nonsense to me. I don't think he deserves it."

But Jae Woon Lim, a 31-year-old teacher, disagreed. "His foreign policy changed diplomatic relations to a mood of cooperation and reconciliation, very different from the Bush administration. In that sense, I think he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize."

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