OSLO - US President Barack Obama needs to make good on the promises that
won him the Nobel Peace Prize, fellow laureate and former US president
Jimmy Carter said on Thursday.
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On the eve of this year's Nobel
award, which could honor the Arab Spring protesters who caught
Washington off guard by toppling autocratic leaders who were US allies,
Carter told Reuters he hoped his fellow Democrat would keep promises on
promoting human rights, Middle East peace and other issues.
Carter, 86, who has worked to resolve
conflicts and promote democracy since losing office 30 years ago, has
been critical of US - and Israeli - positions on Middle East peace and
called Obama's likely veto of giving UN membership to a Palestinian
state a "mistake" at a time when, he believed, the Arab Spring had
opened new possibilities for settling the region's disputes.
shaking up of authoritarian rule in the Arab world has, Carter said,
brought opportunities for resolving a conflict in which he, when
president, was credited with helping broker the peace treaty between
Israel and Egypt.
Noting his support for the Palestinian push
this year for their statehood to be recognized at the United Nations, he
said he hoped they would secure backing in the UN General Assembly to
at least enhance their status in the body. But he said the US veto in
the Security Council would block full membership.
States will veto any move in the Security Council if they get the votes
there, which I think is a mistake. But that's the privilege of the
president to decide," he said during a brief visit to Oslo to meet
"But I think the entire Arab Spring movement
is at least breaking the ice and letting some more flexibility be
introduced into a stalemated Middle East situation."
tipsters think the Norwegian Nobel Committee, appointed by the
parliament in Oslo, may honor the young, Twitter-using demonstrators who
humbled police states in Tunis and Cairo and set an example for
Syrians, Libyans, Yemenis and others.
But the Peace Prize is
notoriously difficult to predict and Carter, whose presence in Oslo was,
he said, coincidental, would not be drawn on a forecast: "I don't have
any way to know ahead of time," he said. "I didn't know when I got it."'I hope he'll fulfill Nobel promises'
hope he'll fulfill the promises that were made at the time he got the
peace prize," Carter said in an interview when asked what Obama, who was
honored in 2009 after being in office less than a year, could do to
live up to the honor.
"It was given primarily because of some of
the commitments he had made verbally, his speeches and so forth about
taking the leadership role and dealing with global warming and dealing
with the immigration problem, enhancing human rights, promoting peace in
the Middle East," said Carter, a prizewinner in 2002.
that some of those promises will be realized," he said, adding that he
believed Obama would overcome sagging poll ratings to win re-election to
a second term next year.
who acknowledged that his award was controversial in 2009 when "at the
beginning and not at the end" of his presidency, has been accused of
failing to deliver on promises made in a speech to the Muslim world in
Cairo that year.
The toppling this year of Tunisia's strongman
followed by Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, a close US ally, drew criticism that
Washington was slow to back the democrats at their expense.'Nobel Prize can be a force for good'
often controversial, the award could be a force for good, Carter said,
even in cases like last year's prize for imprisoned Chinese dissident
Liu Xiaobo, which prompted reprisals against Norway by Beijing and has
been followed by what rights activists describe as a stepping up of
pressure on dissent.
"I think it was possibly a positive factor
in China although they'd disavow that and they react adversely as you
know when there's any criticism from outside about the human rights
policy," said Carter, who noted he has been a regular visitor to China
since he normalized US relations with Beijing in 1979.
his own frequent work as an election observer, he praised the "fairly
good democracy" allowed in small village elections, though recent
developments had been less positive: "I think the Arab Spring signals
have cautioned the Chinese leaders not to permit as much flexibility."
the same time, however, he noted China's acceptance of the rebellion in
Libya: "The Chinese have been fairly supportive of some of the moves
toward democracy, like in Libya ... so I have hopes for the future, that
Chinese political freedom will follow their economic freedom."
Carter sees observer role in Egyptian elections
fall of Mubarak has left the army in control of Egypt and Carter said
he was keen that his teams should play a role, as Egyptian democracy
campaigners want, in observing eventual elections there - something the
generals have been hesitant about permitting, citing concerns about
Carter, who plans to observe Tunisia's election later this month, said
he spoke last week to Egypt's interim leader Field Marshal Mohamed
Hussein Tantawi: "We have offered our services to monitor the election
there ... and he's invited me to 'witness' the election. That's a
distance from 'observing'."
But even that could promote the
democratic process, Carter said: "They're very careful about their
sovereignty so we'll play whatever role they permit us to ... Any
outside presence, even far short of official observer status, will help
to deter improper election procedures. It helps to stabilize the
situation. It gives some confidence to the opposition parties."