The Nobel Committee Thursday named U.N. peacekeeping forces around the world as winners of the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize.
The committee cited the forces for building a confidence in the United Nations that allows it to play a growing role in global affairs.The five-member committee praised the blue-bereted troops in the Middle East, Cyprus and the Indian subcontinent for subduing tensions where armistices have substituted for peace.
The citation said the peacekeepers "have played a significant role in reducing the level of conflict even though the fundamental causes of the struggles frequently remain."
The decision was widely regarded as an indirect award to U.N. Secretary-General Javiar Perez de Cuellar, who scored diplomatic breakthroughs this year in mediating an Iran-Iraq cease-fire, a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and progress in talks on southwest Africa.
Perez de Cuellar was ineligible for this year's prize because he was nominated after the Feb. 1 deadline.
The committee said the peacekeeping forces have helped reach one of the main goals of the United Nations. "Thus the world organization has come to play a more central part in world affairs and has been invested with increasing trust," it said.
It was the fifth time that a U.N.-related body won the coveted peace prize since it was first awarded in 1901 from the estate of Alfred Nobel, who built a fortune from his invention and marketing of dynamite and other explosives.
In all, 97 individuals and organizations were nominated for the prize. President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev reportedly were among the leading contenders.
It was the 16th time that an organization rather than a person was named the Peace Prize laureate.
The announcement, read by committee chairman Egil Aarvik at the Nobel Institute, said the U.N. forces "represent the manifest will of the community of nations to achieve peace through negotiations, and the forces have by their presence made a decisive contribution toward the initiation of actual peace negotiations."
Aarvik, speaking to reporters afterward, said he hoped the award would "give the U.N. and the forces increased prestige."
He said he expected Perez de Cuellar to come to Oslo to accept the award at the annual ceremony on Dec. 10.
The first U.N. troops were sent to monitor the armistice between Israel and the Arab states in 1948. Today, most U.N. forces are stationed in the Middle East.
The committee singled out the U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon, which has suffered more than 200 casualties since it was sent to Lebanon's southern border region with Israel in 1978.
A U.N. peacekeeper, U.S. Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, is one of nine American hostages in Lebanon. Higgins, who headed a 76-member U.N observer group, was kidnapped in south Lebanon on Feb. 17.
His pro-Iranian kidnappers, the underground Organization of the Oppressed on Earth, said April 21 that he was to be tried on charges of spying for the United States. The United States and the United Nations have denied the spying charge.
The prize will be awarded at a ceremony Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death in 1896. Nobel built a fortune from his invention and marketing of dynamite and other explosives.
The peace prize is the first this year to be announced of the six annual Nobel Prizes. The others for literature, medicine, chemistry, physics and economics will be announced next month in Stockholm.