The Latest: Former Tunisian leader says dialogue was key

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Posted: Oct 09, 2015 11:33 AM
The Latest: Former Tunisian leader says dialogue was key

OSLO, Norway (AP) — The latest developments in the awarding of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. All times local.

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Former Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa says the Nobel Peace prize was a triple recognition for the Quartet, for Tunisia's transition to democracy and for dialogue.

His caretaker government in 2014 was a product of the Quartet's work

Jomaa told The Associated Press in Paris: "It's a recognition of the successful Tunisian experience in a democratic transition, as well as a recognition of the method and way we handled and we managed the difficulties."

He adds: "It's through dialogue, it's through consensus, and that's the big lesson."

Jomaa says the process of transition to a new system continues.

He says that Tunisia's problems such as terrorism cannot be solved by Tunisia alone. He says: "We say to everyone in the world that Tunisia has the chance to succeed, the will to succeed and the desire to succeed but it needs support because the problems and pressure it is under are coming from both inside and outside."

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5:10 p.m.

The Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee says that for the first time this year the Oslo government found out who won the Nobel Peace Prize at the same time as the rest of the world.

Previously, the prime minister and foreign ministry were informed about the winner an hour before the official announcement. However, Olav Njoelstad said that arrangement "can be misunderstood or misused" by foreign individuals or governments.

Njoelstad said the change sends an important message about the independence of the panel to China.

The 2010 prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiabo so enraged China that it froze diplomatic and trade ties with Norway. Njoelstad said: "China is among the governments that seem to have a hard time seeing the Committee as independent from the Norwegian government."d.

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4 p.m.

The U.N. secretary-general is praising this year's Nobel Peace Prize winners and the Tunisian people.

The prize on Friday went to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a coalition of workers, business owners, rights activists and lawyers who steered the North African nation away from civil war and toward democracy after its 2011 revolution.

Ban Ki-moon says "this recognition belongs to all those who gave birth to the Arab Spring and are striving to safeguard the sacrifices of so many."

Other nations — like Libya, Egypt and Syria — also saw Arab Spring protests but then fell into political chaos or civil war.

Ban says "this tribute highlights that lasting progress requires an inclusive process. The Arab Spring began with great hopes that were soon replaced with grave doubts. Tunisia has managed to avoid the disappointment and dashed hopes that have tragically emerged elsewhere."

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2:50 p.m.

The chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee says the 2015 peace prize could set an example for the fledgling U.N peace process underway in Libya.

Kaci Kullmann Five, who announced Friday that the award would go to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, says she "woke up to news that there seems to be some movement in the Libyan crisis in forming a cooperative government."

She told The Associated Press, "I hope they can take some encouragement from this prize, seeing what is possible and seeing what kinds of instruments have been used. These are different countries but some of the main root causes of social upheaval often resemble each other."

U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon has proposed a national unity government for Libya after months of difficult talks between the north African country's two rival governments.

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2:20 p.m.

Mohammed Fadhel Mafoudh, head of the Tunisian Order of Lawyers, said in comments on the Nobel Prize website that the award "is the recognition of a whole process. It's a process that started so that Tunisia would have a democratic system ... that respects freedoms."

He added: "It's also a message to the rest of the world, to all countries, to all the people who aspire to democracy and peace.

"It's a message to all parties present in certain political conflicts, to tell them that everything can be settled with dialogue and all can be settled in a climate of peace, and that the language of weapons leads us nowhere. I think that's the most important message."

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1:55 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says the Nobel Peace Prize for Tunisia is a signal to the world to support the country against extremists and internal strife.

Hollande also paid special tribute to the women activists among the quartet of disparate groups awarded Friday for keeping Tunisia on its democratic path after the Arab Spring uprisings.

"I am happy for all Tunisians," Hollande said after a speech Friday in Paris, noting that he had met members of the quartet.

"This is an encouragement to support Tunisia even more through all the hard times it faces, as we've seen with terrorist acts in last weeks and months," Hollande said.

Tunisia was once under French rule and still has significant trade with France and many French speakers.

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1:35 p.m.

A Tunisian human rights campaigner among winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize says the award shows the importance of dialogue among enemies, and warns of extremists threats facing his country.

Abdessattar Ben Moussa, the president of the Tunisian Human Rights League, told The Associated Press on Friday that "this recognition, which fills us with joy, comes at a moment when Tunisia is going through a period marked by political tensions and terrorist threats."

He added, "It shows that dialogue is an essential foundation to arrive at solutions to the most difficult problems."

He said the award will encourage the winners to take "a larger responsibility" in solving the country's problems.

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1:30 p.m.

A senior Danish lawmaker is applauding that the Norwegian Nobel Committee didn't give the 2015 Peace Prize to German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had been viewed as a favorite for the prestigious award.

Soeren Espersen of the Danish People's Party, which supports Denmark's one-party, minority government, wrote Friday on Twitter: "Joy that Merkel didn't as predicted get the Peace Prize. She has thrown Europe into one of the largest migration disasters in modern times."

Merkel became the face of European inclusiveness last month when she pledged to open the country's borders to refugees fleeing Syria and other war-torn areas. She had been nominated before the Feb. 1 deadline for her role in trying to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine.

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12:05 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman says that recognizing Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet is "an excellent decision" by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Steffen Seibert said Friday that the Nobel Peace Prize is "the deserved reward for working on democracy, for sticking to the idea that a people that has shaken off dictatorship deserves something better than a new dictatorship."

Merkel herself had been viewed as a favorite for the prize ahead of Friday's announcement. Asked if his comments reflected relief that she didn't win it at a time when political tensions have been rising over Merkel's policies in the refugee crisis, Seibert told reporters: "No. You are hearing happiness about a very good decision ..., great respect for the achievement of the prizewinners, and the rest is speculation that only you engaged in, and not us."

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11:55 a.m.

Poland's former president and Nobel laureate Lech Walesa says the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to a Tunisian democracy group is an expression of praise for its activity and encouragement to further "wise activity."

Walesa, who won the prize in 1983, said he contributed to the group's activity when he visited Tunisia in 2011 and shared his experience from Poland's bloodless political reforms. Walesa led the Solidarity freedom movement in the 1980s that brought about the ouster of communism.

"I think that the Nobel Prize committee took a close look and did the right thing: it rewarded a good struggle and encouraged further wise activity," he said.

"Democratic processes are not finished there yet and such awards are important because they reassure that the right things are being done."

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11:45 a.m.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has congratulated the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet for winning the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize and says the prize is well-deserved.

Wallstrom told Sweden's state broadcaster SVT "it is a long and difficult process to achieve democratic reforms in a country that has been subjected to such a difficult situation, but it (Tunisia) has done everything right and it has been done with active support from civil society."

She calls Tunisia "one of few examples of success" following the Arab spring uprisings and says she hopes the prize will help inspire other countries that are struggling to reform.

She particularly praised the country's establishment of a new constitution that was anchored among women and young people and its attempts to establish consensus between different parties.

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11:30 a.m.

A Tunisian union leader who played a key role in democracy-building that won the Nobel Peace Prize says he's "overwhelmed" by the gesture.

Houcine Abassi, secretary general of the UGTT union, told The Associated Press on Friday, "It's a prize that crowns more than two years of efforts deployed by the quartet when the country was in danger on all fronts."

"I am happy," he said, adding that the quartet members weren't expecting the prize.

He described how the UGTT, a human rights group, a trade group and a lawyers group joined together to try to "bring the country out of crisis."

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11:15 a.m.

Tunisian protesters sparked uprising across the Arab world in 2011 that overthrew dictators and upset the status quo. Tunisia is the only country in the region to painstakingly build a democracy, involving a range of political and social forces in dialogue to create a constitution, legislature and democratic institutions.

While Tunisia has been much less violent than neighboring Libya or Syria, its transition to democracy has been marred by occasional violence, notably from Islamic extremists.

An attack in June on a beach resort in Sousse left 38 dead, mostly British tourists. Another in March killed 22 people at the country's leading museum, the Bardo in Tunis — also primarily tourists.

The prize comes the day after unidentified assailants shot repeatedly at a lawmaker and prominent sports magnate in Sousse, underscoring a sense of uncertainty in the city, which depends heavily on tourism.

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11 a.m.

The Nobel Peace Prize jury says The National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia has won this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

The jury cited the group Friday for "its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011."

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9:25 a.m.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is set to announce the 2015 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize amid speculation that the prize could highlight Europe's migration crisis, peace talks in Colombia or a U.S.-Iran nuclear deal.

Pope Francis is among the nominees for this year's award though the committee has been reluctant in the past to consider popes — none has been honored since the first Nobel Prizes in 1901.

The five-member committee has released no hints ahead of the announcement, scheduled for 0900 GMT.

A favorite among those placing bets is German Chancellor Angela Merkel for pledging to keep her country's borders open to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from Syria and other countries.

Others mentioned in the buzz include the Rev. Mussi Zerai, an Eritrean priest who helps coordinate rescue missions for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif could be candidates for their July deal on Iran's nuclear program, as could Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel leader Rodrigo Londono.