Russia unhappy over Nobel Peace Prize to Ahtisaari

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Moscow, Oct 11 (UNI) Russia has expressed unhappiness over the choice of Nobel Prize Committee to award 2008 Nobel Peace Prize to Finland's former president Martti Ahtisarri.

Mr Ahtisaari was awarded yesterday the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his three decades of worldwide mediation efforts, including in the Balkan province of Kosovo. The award has already triggered criticism in Russia over his role in the Kosovo settlement.

Mikhail Margelov, head of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, the upper house, said Mr Ahtisaari's other achievements outweighed his ''failure'' in Kosovo, but that failure ''meant Serbia's breakup.'' ''If not his UN mission on Kosovo, which Mr Ahtisaari, let's face it, failed to fulfil, the award would not have given rise to unpleasant feelings among those who consider Kosovo's independence illegitimate,'' Mr Margelov said.

The Nobel Committee said in a statement that Mr Ahtisaari (71), ''has figured prominently in endeavors to resolve several serious and long-lasting conflicts,'' mentioning his roles in Namibia, Aceh, Kosovo and Iraq and ''constructive contributions to the resolution of conflicts in Northern Ireland, in Central Asia and on the Horn of Africa.'' As UN Special Envoy for Kosovo, Mr Ahtisaari laid out a plan in 2007 proposing ''supervised independence'' for the Albanian-dominated province. It was backed by the Kosovo government, the US and Europe, but strongly opposed by Serbia and Russia as infringing on the former's territorial integrity.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February and has since been recognised by the United States and the majority of European countries.

Russia, Serbia's long-time ally and a veto-wielding UN Security Council member, has refused to follow suit.

Russian ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky also criticised the choice for the Nobel Peace Prize.

''Mr Ahtisaari destroyed Serbia. He is like Mikhail Gorbachev, who destroyed the Soviet Union and received the Peace Prize,'' Mr Zhirinovsky said, adding ''Now this Finn receives the prize for helping create a state within Serbia.'' ''They must be kidding us,'' he said.

General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems thinktank, said the prize was awarded to Mr Ahtisaari for his role in the annexation of Kosovo from Serbia.

''The politician worked on the US and NATO's side and did everything to destroy Yugoslavia and annex Kosovo,'' Mr Ivashov told RIA Novosti news agency.

''The Peace Prize is obviously an award for his zealous efforts in that shameful process,'' he said.

UNI XC PD RK1700

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