Three women have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize Friday. NBC's Andrea Mitchell has more on the laureates.
Updated at 7:40 a.m. ET: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, of Liberia, and Tawakul Karman, of Yemen are formally given the Nobel Peace Prize.
Published at 7:20 a.m. ET: Awarding this year's Nobel Peace Prize, the head of the selection panel forecast that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would succumb to a "wind of history" blowing through the Arab world and be forced to accept democratic change.
Presenting the prize in Oslo to three women who include a Yemeni activist whose Arab spring protests helped undermine her country's veteran leader, Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said: "No dictator can in the long run find shelter from this wind of history."
"It was this wind which led people to crawl up onto the Berlin Wall and tear it down. It is the wind that is now blowing in the Arab world," he said.
Leonhard Foeger / Reuters
Norway's King Harald, Queen Sonja, Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Crown Prince Haakon (center left-right) attend the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, Saturday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to China on Saturday urged Beijing to improve its human rights record, pointing to imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo as an example where China falls short.
In a statement released on the U.N.'s International Human Rights Day, envoy Gary Locke said protection of human rights in China had not kept up with the country's massive economic gains.
'People's demand for freedom'
Jagland noted 2011 Nobel laureate Tawakul Karman's efforts to unseat Yemen's outgoing president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the bloody uprising in Syria.
"Not even President Saleh was able, and President Assad in Syria will not be able, to resist the people's demand for freedom and human rights," he said.
Suggesting Assad should want to be "on the right side of history", Jagland added: "The leaders in Yemen and Syria who murder their people to retain their own power should take note of the following: Mankind's fight for freedom and human rights never stops."
Karman was in the Norwegian capital to share the prize with two Liberian women, newly re-elected president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and rights activist Leymah Gbowee.
The prize citation honours "their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work".
Jagland said women's rights must be a key focus in the aftermath of change in North Africa and the Middle East, where Islamists have taken advantage of freer elections this year.
"The promising Arab Spring will become a new winter if women are again left out," said Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister. "Islam must be part of the solution.
"Only then will there be democracy and peace developments in this part of the world."
The laureates, receiving the prize on the 115th anniversary of the death of benefactor Alfred Nobel, will share a total award worth $1.5 million.
Ambassador Locke said the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo and restrictions on the freedoms of his wife, "the illegal 'disappearing' of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, the unlawful detention of Chinese citizens such as lawyer Chen Guangcheng, and constraints on the religious freedom and practices of Tibetan, Uighur and Christian communities do not bring China closer to achieving its stated goals."
Liu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, is serving an 11-year prison sentence for co-authoring an appeal for political reform. His wife, Liu Xia, has largely been held incommunicado, effectively under house arrest, watched by police, without phone or Internet access and prohibited from seeing all but a few family members.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Friday that Liu was in jail because he was a criminal. China defends its human rights record, saying it has vastly improved living conditions for its citizens.
Gao, a human rights lawyer who has represented religious dissenters and advocated constitutional reform, has been missing for more than 18 months.
Chen, an activist lawyer who is blind, was released from jail a little more than a year ago, but authorities have turned his village in Shangdong province in eastern China into a no-go zone, where activists, foreign diplomats and reporters have been turned back and threatened.
Locke said Washington wants to build a partnership with China that includes regular talks on human rights issues. He said U.S. support for China reflects a belief that rule of the law and protection of "freedoms of expression, belief and assembly are critical to securing the growth, prosperity and long-term stability that China seeks and to realizing the full potential of its people."
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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