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Former President Ahtisaari Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Finland's former president Martti Ahtisaari won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

Ahtisaari, 71, earned the honour for a long career of peace mediation work including a 2005 accord between Indonesia and rebels in its Aceh province.

Speaking at a press conference in Helsinki on Friday, Ahtisaari credited the many people he has worked with closely throughout the years.

"I am not the only person who can do what I have done. But very often people don't get the opportunity to do what I do. I also work with extremely competent people. It is not a one-man job," he said.

"Perhaps I am in a lucky position, taking my positions in the UN and as president of this country. We can ask for help when we need it. I have always enjoyed support from my own government and that has been vital," he said.

Ahtisaari added that straightforward talk helped him make headway in peace negotiations.

"You have to be very candid. If people are doing or saying something counterproductive, you have to have courage to say so," he said.

Ahtisaari also spoke of the projects he will continue to work on, including a programme to help employ youth in several Middle Eastern countries and Africa. He said he will also continue to follow the situation in Aceh.

Peace Work Spanning Decades and Continents The Norwegian Nobel Committee chose Ahtisaari to receive the $1.4 million prize from a field of 197 nominees. Ahtisaari is the first Finn to ever win the prestigious Peace Prize. Ole Danbolt of the Norwegian Nobel Committee made the announcement at noon Finnish time. "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008 to Martti Ahtisaari for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts. These efforts have contributed to a more peaceful world and to fraternity between nations in Alfred Nobel's spirit," the committee said. His name had been mentioned in speculation leading up to the prize for his efforts in Europe, Africa and Asia. Among other things, he brokered a peace deal between rebels and the Indonesian government in Aceh province. Ahtisaari served as president from 1994 to 2000. Upon leaving office, he founded an NGO called the Crisis Management Initiative, which he chairs. Although Ahtisaari has been considered a favourite for the prize several times, the choice as this year's winner came as a considerable surprise. Favourites this year included Chinese dissidents Gao Zhisheng and Hu Jia, Vietnamese Buddhist leader Thich Quang Dota, and the US-based Human Rights Watch organisation.