Tony Blair awarded US Liberty Medal for peace work

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Former British prime minister Tony Blair on Monday was awarded the Liberty Medal by former US president Bill Clinton's National Constitution Center in Philadelphia for his commitment to conflict resolution.

Blair called the award he received from Clinton "a tremendous privilege and honor," especially since Philadelphia, where the center is based, was the cradle of US liberty and democracy and the US constitution.

The National Constitution Center has praised Blair, who served as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, for his efforts 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.

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

At the event, U2 musician, peace activist and 2007 Liberty Medal singer Bono sang a tribute to Blair.

No protesters were present, unlike at Blair's book signing earlier this month in Dublin when he was pelted with eggs by demonstrators opposed to his role in the 2003 Iraq war. Blair cancelled another book signing in London days later also due to protests.

Published September 1, Blair's best-selling memoirs, "A Journey," is an account of Blair's years leading the Labour party and a decade in power from 1997-2007, during which he led Britain into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Accompanied by his wife, son and daughter, Blair after accepting the award said the pursuit of liberty in the world "requires that we respect difference," adding that in the Middle East he could well see "what conflict based on difference can do.

"And yet I know that in the end, whether a Jew or Christian or Hindu or Sikh or any other faith, there is a common humanity and a common need for what humanity can achieve that unites us."

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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