OSLO (Reuters) - President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for giving the world "hope for a better future" and striving for nuclear disarmament, in a surprise award that drew both warm praise and sharp criticism.
The decision to bestow one of the world's top accolades on a president less than nine months into his first term, who has yet to score a major foreign policy success, was greeted with gasps of astonishment from journalists at the announcement in Oslo.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Obama for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." But critics -- especially in parts of the Arab and Muslim world -- called its decision premature.
The first African-American to hold his country's highest office, Obama, 48, has called for disarmament and worked to restart the stalled Middle East peace process since taking office in January.
"Very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said in a citation.
While the decision won praise from statesmen like Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev, both former Nobel laureates, it was also attacked in some quarters as hasty and undeserved.
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and opposes a peace treaty with Israel, said the award was premature at best.
"Obama has a long way to go still and lots of work to do before he can deserve a reward," said Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri. "Obama only made promises and did not contribute any substance to world peace. And he has not done anything to ensure justice for the sake of Arab and Muslim causes."
Issam al-Khazraji, a day laborer in Baghdad, said: "He doesn't deserve this prize. All these problems -- Iraq, Afghanistan -- have not been solved...The man of 'change' hasn't changed anything yet."
Liaqat Baluch, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a conservative religious party in Pakistan, called the award an embarrassing "joke."
But the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, welcomed it and expressed hope that Obama "will be able to achieve peace in the Middle East."
Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland rejected suggestions from journalists that Obama was getting the prize too early, saying it recognized what he had already done over the past year.
Seriously? He won the pirize for giving us "hope". HOLY SHIT. What are you're thoughts on this?? I know i think it is absolutely rediculous for him to win a Nobel.