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Nobel Peace Prize Winner Calls Poverty Threat to World Peace


Bangladeshi economist Muhammed Yunus called poverty a fundamental threat to peace as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. Lisa Bryant has more on the awards ceremony for VOA from Paris.

Sixty six-year-old Mohammed Yunus - the economist from Bangladesh, whom many call the banker of the poor - and his Grameen Bank were awarded the prize for helping millions of people get out of poverty through micro-credit loans.

The Nobel committee called Yunus a "modern Ghandi," as it bestowed the prize on the micro-credit pioneer. Yunus says he will use his share of the $1.4-million award to create a company making low-cost, high-nutrition food for the poor.

In his prepared remarks, he described the achievements of the small loans his bank offers, which have been replicated in developing countries around the world.

"Today, Grameen Bank gives loans to nearly seven million poor people, 97 percent of them are women, in 73,000 villages in Bangladesh," said Mohammed Yunus. "Grameen Bank gives collateral-free income-generating loans, housing loans, student loans and micro-enterprise loans to the poor families, and offers a host of attractive savings, pension funds and insurance products for its members."

Among those benefitting from a Grameen credit was Mosammat Taslima Begum, a Bangladeshi woman who used her first loan in 1992 to buy a goat. Now a successful, small entrepreneur, Begum was also in Norway to accept the Nobel on behalf of the bank's millions of borrowers.

But Yunus said the loans were only part of the goal.

"We are creating a completely new generation that will be well equipped to take their families out of the reach of poverty," he said. "We want to make a break with the historical continuation of poverty."

Yunus also warned, poverty generates hostility and anger, and that peace is impossible where poverty exists.

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