Obama receives Nobel Peace Prize for nuclear-free world vision

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 on the back of his ambitious vision for a world without nuclear weapons and despite his being a wartime president.

''If we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something...One urgent example is the effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek a world without them,'' he said in remarks after accepting the gold peace prize medal at a ceremony in the Norwegian capital.

While acknowledging the controversy over his choice as this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Obama said the use of force is at times justified.

''There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified,'' he said, adding, ''Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms.''

The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced in October that Obama, who took office only in January, won the world's highest honor for peace for this year, though he is a president waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama received the peace prize just nine days after announcing a surge of an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in the first half of 2010 but promising to begin withdrawing some of the forces in July 2011.

Referring to nuclear programs by Iran and North Korea, Obama said nations that violate international laws must face tough action taken by the international community, including sanctions.

''It is...incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system,'' he said. ''Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted.''

At the ceremony, the U.S. president received the 18-carat gold medal plus the diploma and a check for 10 million Swedish crowns (about $1.4 million), which he said he will donate to charity.

Born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and a mother from Kansas, Obama was elected on a message of ''hope'' and ''change.'' His diverse background, including spending a large part of his childhood in Indonesia, is said to have helped with his image as an empathetic leader.

His introduction to the national stage came just four years before his election last year, when as a member of the Illinois State Senate, he made a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, which catapulted Obama to his U.S. Senate seat the following year.

Obama's political career was preceded by years as a legal associate and a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School in the 1990s. He received his law degree from Harvard University in 1991 after working as a community organizer in Chicago.

He married his wife Michelle in 1992 and they have two daughters, Malia and Sasha.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Dec. 10, 2009)