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Peace prizes for acting world leaders

Sat Oct 10 04:29:30 EST 2009
Fri Oct 9 17:29:30 UTC 2009

This factbox corrects and updates one issued earlier

Awards of the Nobel Peace Prize to acting heads of state or government have been a rarity since the honour was first handed out in 1901.

The precedents:

- 1906: Theodore Roosevelt, whose name is more often associated with his role in several wars and his motto "Speak softly and carry a big stick," was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for helping end a war between Russia and Japan. He was then in the first half of his second term. "Teddy" Roosevelt was a distant relative of Franklin D Roosevelt, who served as US president during World War II.

- 1919: Thomas Woodrow Wilson was in the middle of the second of his two mandates as president of the United States when he won the prize for his work to seal the Treaty of Versailles that followed World War I. Wilson's "Fourteen points" laid the foundations of the League of Nations, the predecessor of today's United Nations. Ironically, his own country never joined the League, which collapsed in the run-up to the Second World War.

- 1926: Aristide Briand was both prime minister and foreign minister of France when he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in sealing the Locarno treaty in 1925. The agreement notably fixed the post-World War I borders of Germany, France and Belgium.

- 1971: Willy Brandt was chancellor of West Germany -- one of the two German states that emerged after World War II -- when he won the prize in 1971. Brandt, a social democrat, was awarded the prize for his "Ostpolitik", or policy of reconciliation with East Germany. The two states were reunited to form the present-day republic of Germany in 1990; Brandt died in 1992.

- 1978: Egyptian president Anwar al Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords in September 1978; they led to a peace deal between the two main belligerents in several Middle Eastern wars, but also inspired the assassination of Sadat three years later.

The two leaders were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after the accords, signed at the US presidential retreat of Camp David near Washington. The US president who presided over the deal, Jimmy Carter, was to win the prize in 2002, over two decades after he left office.

- 1987: Oscar Arias Sanchez, the present and past president of Costa Rica, won the prize for his work on ending the civil wars that afflicted several central American states in the 1970s and 80s. This year, Arias was again involved in seeking to end a regional crisis, in Honduras.

- 1990: When Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the peace prize in October 1990, the country of which he was president had less than a year to live. The reforms in part inspired by Gorbachev led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the reunification of Germany the following year and then to the effective dissolution of the Soviet Union in the second half of 1991.

- 1993: As president of South Africa, Frederik de Klerk was instrumental in ending his country's white-minority apartheid system and paving the way for majority rule. His government released from prison the man who succeeded him, African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela. The two won the prize jointly in 1993.

- 1994: Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat jointly won the Nobel Peace prize for their efforts to reach a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, an aim which still eludes world leaders today.

At the time Rabin was prime minister and Peres foreign minister of Israel, while Arafat was president of the Palestinian National Authority. Rabin was to be assassinated by a Jewish extremist just over a year after winning the prize, while Arafat died in 2004. Shimon Peres is now president of Israel.

- 2000: Kim Dae Jung was a pro-democracy campaigner who rose to become president of South Korea between 1998 and 2003. He won the prize in 2000, the year he helped organise a landmark reconciliation summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Kim Dae Jung died in 2006.