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Fidel Castro lauds Nobel prize for Obama

HAVANA (Reuters) - Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro lauded the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to U.S. President Barack Obama, saying on Saturday it was “a positive measure” that was more a criticism of past U.S. policies than a recognition of Obama’s accomplishments.

U.S. President Barack Obama smiles after making remarks on regulatory reform in the East Room at the White House in Washington October 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

Castro said the prize made up for the blow Obama suffered last week when the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2016 Summer Games to Rio de Janeiro after Obama had flown to Copenhagen to pitch for Chicago, his adoptive hometown.

The Nobel Committee announced on Friday that Obama had won the peace price for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

The decision prompted surprise in many quarters and anger from Obama’s conservative foes in the United States.

But Castro, who has generally written positively about Obama, was pleased at the decision by the committee.

“I don’t always share the positions of that institution but I’m obligated to recognize that in this instance it was, in my judgment, a positive measure,” Castro wrote in a column published in state-run media.

“Many will say that he still hasn’t earned the right to receive such distinction. We prefer to see in the decision, more than a prize for the president of the United States, a criticism of the genocidal policies that not a few presidents of that country have followed.”

Such policies, Castro said, had “brought the world to the crossroads where it finds itself; an exhortation for peace and the search for solutions to assure the survival of the species.”

The Nobel prize made up for “the reverse Obama suffered in Copenhagen ... which provoked angry attacks by his adversaries of the extreme right,” Castro wrote.

His comments were part of a long piece entitled “The Bell Tolls for the Dollar” in which he said the U.S. dollar was losing its position as the preeminent world currency.

Also, he criticized the United States, as he often does, for not doing more to cut emission of greenhouse gases said to be causing global warming.

Castro, 83, ran Cuba for 49 years after taking power in a 1959 revolution but stepped down last year and was replaced as president by his younger brother Raul Castro.

The elder Castro has been seen only in occasional photos and videos since having surgery for an undisclosed intestinal ailment in July 2006. But he still has a behind-the-scenes role in government and keeps a high profile through his writings.

Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by John O’Callaghan