U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday repeated that he had been surprised at his win of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, shortly before he was to accept the coveted award in Oslo City Hall.
“I have no doubt that there are others who may be more deserving,” Mr. Obama said at a joint news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
“My task here is to continue on the path that I believe is not only important for America, but important for lasting peace and security in the world,” he added.
He cited “a host of initiatives,” ranging from climate change to a world free from nuclear weapons, strengthening mechanisms to avert the spread of nuclear weapons and stabilizing countries like Afghanistan — all of which he had launched this year.
“If I am successful with those tasks then hopefully some of the criticism will subside, but that is not really my concern,” Mr. Obama said, adding that “if I am not successful all the praise of awards of the world will not disguise that fact.” On Afghanistan, Mr. Obama said the U.S. would in 2011 begin to “transfer responsibility” to Afghan forces saying “July 2011 will signal a shift in our mission.” He also welcomed Norway’s pledge to give $110 million to a fund to build up Afghan security forces 2010-2014.
Mr. Stoltenberg said he supported the Nobel Committee’s “bold” choice.
The President arrived early Thursday amid massive security. The highlight of Mr. Obama’s visit will be his receipt of the coveted prize and delivery of an acceptance speech at Oslo City Hall.
Mr. Obama is the third sitting U.S. President to win the prize. It was previously awarded in 1906 to Theodore Roosevelt and in 1919 to Woodrow Wilson.
Before the meeting with Mr. Stoltenberg, the President visited the Nobel Institute that assists the five-member Nobel Committee, and signed a guest book.
At the institute, Mr. Obama noted the role of the peace prize, citing U.S. civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King, who won the award in 1964.
The President was accompanied to Oslo by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Security in central Oslo has been heightened, with some 2,000 officers on duty, in addition to some 200 U.S. security staff. Low-flying helicopters also flew over the city.
Security fences have been raised along main streets, sharpshooters have been posted on many buildings, and motorists were advised to expect delays.
A banquet at the Grand Hotel on Thursday evening caps the formal events for the President, whose entire visit is only scheduled to last some 26 hours.
The Nobel prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and economics were to be handed out later Thursday in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.