Peacekeepers Celebrate Nobel Prize
JERUSALEM (AP) _ U.N. peacekeepers today radioed word of their Nobel Peace Prize victory to battalions in battle-scarred Lebanon and cracked open bottles of champagne in Jerusalem to celebrate the prestigious award.
U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar paid tribute to the peacekeeping forces worldwide after the Nobel Committee announced they will receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Spokesmen said the prize would give a boost to U.N. efforts to contain global conflicts.
U.N. officials in Finland, which contributes more peacekeeping troops than any other country, said they hoped the prize would induce members to pay their bills for the financially ailing forces.
″The recent achievements of the United Nations have neither been sudden nor fortuitous, but are the hard-won results of persistence and dedication over many years, epitomized by the peacekeeping activities of the Organizations,″ Perez de Cuellar told the delegates to the 43rd General Assembly.
″The awarding of the prize to the peacekeepers is obviously a token of world appreciation for the work of the force,″ said Capt. Mikael Heinrichs, senior officer in the Defense Ministry’s U.N. office in Finland. ″I am sure that it will help with finding enough international will to help finance the force.″
″The international community has finally given appropriate recognition to all the sacrifices our people have made,″ Timor Goksel, spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, told The Associated Press.
″There is great joy. This came as a pleasant surprise,″ Goksel said in a telephone interview from Naqoura, Lebanon.
″We just got the news,″ Lt. Col. Gerry McMahon, 52, of Newbridge, Ireland, told the AP by telephone. ″We are sending it by radio to various battaltions. It’s the fastest way to get it out to everyone.″
McMahon, a senior operations officer, said the peacekeepers often felt their job was a thankless one ″but we get used to that after a few years. It may not make world headlines, but every day you have a small achievement on the ground.″
Goksel said 100,000 men and women from 15 countries have served in UNIFIL ″under very difficult circumstances″ since it was formed in 1978. Of those, 156 troops have been killed, 230 were wounded in action and two are missing, he said.
In Jerusalem, Tony French, a spokesman for the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, said: ″Any acclamation and recognition of the U.N.’s valuable role helps to assist the U.N. in peacekeeping and as a world forum for peace.″
″U.N. forces have labored a long time under great difficulties in the cause of peace,″ French told The AP.
Lt. Gen. Martin Vadset, chief of staff of the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, added,″We have, so to speak, lived through all the wars you can think of, and one might say that we have been unsuccessful in not preventing them. I Think we have been successful in being available to try to minimize disaster when it first broke out″
″We are, of course, very, very glad to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s absolutely a most rewarding day, if I may say so.″