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Lech Walesa: Nobel Choice, Shirin Ebadi, "a Big Mistake"


Agence France Presse (A.F.P.), Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 10, 2003

Former Polish president and Nobel peace laureate Lech Walesa said it was a 'big mistake' to award the Nobel peace prize to Iranian human rights activist and feminist lawyer Shirin Ebadi instead of Pope John Paul II. 'For me it is a big mistake, a bad mistake, an unfortunate mistake,' Walesa told Polish television after the choice was announced in Oslo. Walesa, who won the prestigious peace prize in 1983, described the selection as 'unbelievable, incredible,' and he appeared visibly annoyed on T.V.N. 24 as he watched the announcement on television from his home in the northern Polish town of Gdansk.

The ailing 83-year-old pope, a Pole, had been considered one of the favourites for the prize, alongside former Czech president Vaclav Havel. Walesa, a former leader of the Solidarity trade union and a fervent Roman Catholic, received much moral support from the Pope John Paul during his fight against communism. 'I do not want to call into question the committee's choice, but I am going to try and find out through my own contacts with the committee what weighed in favour of such a decision,' he said. 'The Pope has so many merits, he has tried to convince the big powers that peace is always a better solution than war. The one who has done the most in the world, for all religions, did not get the prize,' he said. However, he said he was not going to lodge an official protest. To protest against the choice 'would be an offence to the Pope. The Holy Father is bigger than the Nobel Peace Prize, than all the prizes in the world,' he added.