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Wartime US President Picks Up His Peace Prize

President Barack Obama is reflecting on past winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, praising many for giving "voice to the voiceless."

Obama's first stop in Oslo on Thursday was the Norwegian Nobel Institute, where the Nobel committee meets to decide who wins the prestigious prize. He signed the Nobel guest book there and told reporters it was important to talk about what he had written.

He thanked the committee members and noted the pictures on the wall of former winners. He singled out the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., saying that the prize increased the civil rights leader's stature in the world and elevated his cause at home.

Obama formally receives his Nobel medal and diploma at a ceremony in this chilly, damp Nordic capital later Thursday.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Honored for peace in a time of war, President Barack Obama is formally becoming a Nobel laureate on Thursday under such odd circumstances that even he will make a point of it.

In a ceremony in Oslo, the president will receive his Nobel Peace Prize medal and diploma for his work to reshape the way the United States deals with the world. Yet he does so under the long shadow of the war in Afghanistan, where he is ordering 30,000 more troops into battle.

Obama's Nobel speech — a tradition that goes to the winner and is billed as a lecture for the world — will explore his thinking about war, security and the pursuit of peace. He is likely to spell out the role of American leadership and the responsibilities of all nations.

There will be plenty of splashy ceremony in Obama's honor, too.

His first stop was the Norwegian Nobel Institute, where the Nobel committee meets to decide who wins the prestigious prize. All committee members were to be there to greet their latest recipient as he signs the Nobel guest book. He also was to meet with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

In the evening, Obama is expected to wave to a torchlight procession from his hotel balcony and stroll with Norwegian royalty to a dinner banquet. He will offer comments a second time there and cap his brisk jaunt to Europe covering not even two days, even with travel time.

The president and his wife, Michelle, arrived to a chilly, damp Oslo morning after an overnight flight from Washington. He and the first lady came off Air Force One holding hands and smiling, greeted by a small clutch of dignitaries. Obama was due back in Washington by early Friday afternoon.

The Nobel committee announced Obama had won the peace prize when he wasn't even nine months on the job, recognizing his aspirations much more than his achievements.

The panel cited his call for a world free of nuclear weapons, for a more engaged U.S. role in combating global warming, for his support of the United Nations and multilateral diplomacy and for broadly capturing the attention of the world and giving its people "hope."

It was such a surprise, and derided so loudly by some critics as premature, that the Nobel committee took the unusual step of defending itself. Obama reacted with humility, saying he was undeserving.

Obama's quick trip reflects a White House that sees little value in trumpeting an honor for peace just nine days after Obama announced he was sending more troops off to war.

Asked if Obama was excited about the award, national security aide and speechwriter Ben Rhodes responded, "I think he feels as if it places a responsibility upon him."

"It's the company that you keep as a Nobel laureate that I think makes the deepest impression upon him," said Rhodes, who was helping craft the president's speech. "That kind of adds an extra obligation to essentially extend the legacy."

Obama was considering lots of ideas for the speech and was expected to winnow them and hash out a final draft aboard Air Force One on the flight to Norway, where the peace-award-in-wartime irony hasn't gone unnoticed.

Peace activists in the Norwegian capital plan a 5,000-person anti-war protest on Thursday. Protesters have plastered posters around Oslo featuring the image of Obama from his iconic campaign poster, altered with skepticism to say, "Change?"

Demonstrators plan to gather in sight of Obama's hotel room balcony, and chant slogans playing on Obama's own slogans, foremost among them: "Change: Stop the War in Afghanistan."

The list of Nobel peace laureates over the last 100 years includes transformative figures and giants on the world stage. They include heroes of the president, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, and others he has long admired, such as George Marshall, who launched a postwar recovery plan for Europe.

The Nobel honor comes with a $1.4 million prize. The White House says Obama will give that to charities but has not yet decided which ones.


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