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Ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev hails Nobel Peace Prize award to anti-nuclear weapons group Ican

Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican), poses at the group's headquarters at Geneva, Switzerland on Friday PICTURE: Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP

FORMER Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev has hailed the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a group campaigning against nuclear weapons.

The group, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, was awarded the prize amid rising tensions over North Korea's expanding weapons programme and threats by US president Donald Trump to use all means necessary against the Pyongyang regime.

The International Campaign To Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) was praised by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for its work to eradicate the weapons of mass destruction.

The committee honoured the Geneva-based group "for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons".

Mr Gorbachev, who has himself campaigned against nuclear weapons since leaving office in 1991, said he was "very worried that military doctrines again allow the use of nuclear weapons".

He said it reinforces the position that he and Ronald Reagan took at the Reykjavik summit a generation ago.

"I would like to remind about a joint statement we signed with Ronald Reagan: A nuclear war can't be won and must never be fought," he said.

Although the 1986 Reykjavik meeting collapsed at the last minute, it led to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty that banned all land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range between 310 and 3,410 miles.

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of Ican, said: "It (the award) sends a message to all nuclear-armed states and all states that continue to rely on nuclear weapons for security that it is unacceptable behaviour.

"We can't threaten to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of security.

"That's not how you build security."

The Nobel statement, read by committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen, said "through its inspiring and innovative support for the UN negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, Ican has played a major part in bringing about what in our day and age is equivalent to an international peace congress".

The committee, meeting in Norway's capital Oslo, also called on existing nuclear nations to take steps to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

The North Korean regime led by Kim Jong Un has conducted several increasingly sophisticated nuclear tests, possibly including a hydrogen bomb, and also expanded its missile programme to include weapons allegedly capable of striking parts of the United States.

Mr Trump has ridiculed Mr Kim as Rocket Man and has warned North Korea it might face "fire and fury" like the world has never seen.

Asked by journalists whether the prize was essentially symbolic, given that no international measures against nuclear weapons have been reached, Ms Reiss-Andersen said "what will not have an impact is being passive".

The committee sorted through more than 300 nominations for this year's award, which recognises both accomplishments and intentions.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee does not release names of those it considers for the prize, but said 215 individuals and 103 organisations were nominated.

Syrian volunteer humanitarian organisation White Helmets had been seen as a top contender, along with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini for shepherding the deal to curb Iran's nuclear programme.

Ms Fihn said the group has received a phone call minutes before the official announcement was made that Ican had won the prize.

She thought it was "a prank" and she did not believe it until heard the name of the group during the Peace Prize announcement in Oslo.

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