OSLO : Barack Obama’s administration rebuked Norway after he won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, saying it was an awkward honour for an as-yet untested leader, a Norwegian diplomat revealed on Thursday.
“My most embarrassing day at the UN, at the time when I was Norway’s ambassador there, was when Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was announced. Nobody was talking about it,” said Morten Wetland, who served at the UN from 2008 to 2012.
“My colleague in Washington received a reprimand from Obama’s chief of staff (Rahn Emmanuel, at the time). The word ‘fawning’ was used,” Wetland added in an article in Norwegian daily Dagens Naeringsliv. The diplomat said that the prize put Obama, who was nominated for the prize just weeks after taking office, in a difficult position.
“An American president wants to set his own agenda. Here he was forced into a role that he hadn’t sought,” Wetland said.
“It could seem like somebody did this to make Obama visit the country.”
The Nobel was unexpectedly awarded to the first African American president of the United States on October 9, 2009, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”.
The announcement came as the US was engaged in two conflicts, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Norway’s ambassador to the US at the time, Wegger Stroemmen, could not be reached for comment.
Wetland’s words were published in the midst of a recurring debate on the independence and the make-up of the Nobel committee, whose five members make fully autonomous decisions but are appointed by the Norwegian parliament.
The committee’s choices are nevertheless sometimes considered to represent the country’s foreign policy.
When Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the prize in 2010, the Asian nation froze all high level diplomatic contact with Norway.
Several voices including Wetland are calling for the opening of the Nobel committee to foreign personalities in order to broaden its scope and highlight its independence.