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'Better than Bush' Obama deserves Nobel award: Iraqis

Sat Oct 10 04:39:14 EST 2009
Fri Oct 9 17:39:15 UTC 2009

BAGHDAD, Oct 9 AFP - Iraqis have backed the decision to award Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, crediting him with helping reduce violence in the country and saying he deserves it because he "is better than Bush".

Some said, however, that Obama has only won the prize because of his position as US president, and complained that the Nobel committee has overlooked other more suitable candidates who do not have his stature.

Abu Istabraq, a 45-year-old security guard for a Baghdad bank branch, told AFP that Obama deserves the award because he "is better than Bush", referring to former US president George W Bush, under whose leadership Iraq was invaded in 2003.

"He (Obama) was also able to calm the situation in Iraq and other countries, and he made America approach Islamic and Arabic countries -- he really deserved this prize more than anyone else."

Kadim Hussain, speaking in Khilani Square in central Baghdad, said the prize is "good for the Iraqi people" as well as for Obama.

"We hope that he will deliver on the promises he has made to the Iraqi people about pulling (US forces) out, and helping the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government."

Washington and Baghdad have agreed to a security agreement which calls for US combat troops to withdraw from Iraq by the middle of next year, and for all American forces to leave the country by the end of 2011.

"Obama really is a man of peace, and he really deserves this prize because he is working to complete the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, and is not planning to intervene in other countries' affairs," 42-year-old Mohammed al-Hasnawi said.

"But he got the prize because of his position as the president of the biggest country in the world," added the shop owner in the town of Simawa, 280km south of Baghdad.

Hasnawi said other regional leaders, such as Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani, "had the ability, which nobody has, to deliver peace on Earth".

Sistani is revered by his followers and his stature dwarfs Iraqi politicians, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, himself a Shi'ite.