Tony Blair named winner of US Liberty Medal for peace work

1st July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former British prime minister Tony Blair has been named as the 2010 winner of US award the Liberty Medal for his "commitment to conflict resolution", his office said Thursday.

The National Constitution Center, which awards the medal, praised Blair for his efforts as prime minister from 1997 to 2007 in Northern Ireland and Kosovo, and for continuing his work as a Middle East envoy since leaving office.

The ex-premier takes his place alongside a host of well-known figures who have previously won the prize, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ex-UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

"The National Constitution Center announced today that Tony Blair will receive the 2010 Liberty Medal in recognition of his steadfast commitment to conflict resolution," said a statement on the website of Blair's office.

The former premier said he would give the 100,000-dollar (70,000-pound, 82,000-euro) prize money to two of his charities.

"I am deeply indebted to the National Constitution Center for adding my name to such a distinguished list of recipients," said Blair.

Former US president Bill Clinton, who is chair of the center, will award Blair the medal at a ceremony on September 13 at the center in Philadelphia.

"It was a privilege to work with my friend Tony Blair to help end 30 years of sectarian violence and broker a lasting peace in Northern Ireland," said Clinton.

He added the pair also worked together "to stop the killing in and mass exodus from Kosovo, and to develop policies that would improve living conditions for people in both our countries."

But Blair remains a hugely divisive figure in his homeland, and the announcement of the award was met with scepticism from British commentators.

"Blair's peace efforts in the Middle East presumably don't encompass his support for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003," said the Guardian.

The Liberty Medal is awarded to people in recognition of their work for bringing about peace and was founded in 1988 to commemorate 200 years of the United States constitution.

© 2010 AFP

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