Vol. 5 Num 856 Sat. October 21, 2006  
Front Page

Yunus slams all nuclear nations

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus yesterday condemned North Korea's nuclear weapons drive, along with other nuclear-armed states, and urged the world to raise its voice against the weapons.

"The whole world condemns North Korea, we all do," he told a press conference in South Korea, where he arrived Wednesday to receive the Seoul Peace Prize for his pioneering work in fighting poverty.

Bangladesh's "banker to the poor" was awarded the Seoul prize just six days after winning the world's most prestigious peace award.

"If any new nation acquires a new weapon, anybody should join hands and raise their voice to stop it," the founder of Grameen Bank said.

"At the same time we should not forgive the people who already have (nuclear weapons). I'm against all nuclear stockpiles anywhere in the world."

Yunus said making nuclear weapons and maintaining them was "equally as condemnable as acquiring new capacity".

"So we should raise our voice globally. This is one weapon we don't want to see anywhere in the world."

Yunus also said he was ready to bring his microcredit banking concept to the impoverished people of North Korea, in co-operation with one of its banks.

"If their banking people (would) like to talk to me, I would like to do that," he said.

Yunus said the Nobel Peace Prize had made an "amazing difference" to him, with his bank gaining greater international attention.

Yunus has not received an invitation from North Korea, which ranks near the bottom of most of the world's poverty indices, but other communist states such as China and Cuba have sought his help with microcredit.

"If Beijing can take it as a political decision and adopt it as an official policy of the Communist Party of China, I don't see North Koreans would have any problem," Yunus said.

"It's a total change of life," he said, adding the prize would help him step up his campaign to help the poor in Bangladesh and other countries.

The success of Grameen Bank in offering microcredit without collateral to the poor people has been emulated in 23 countries, according to the Grameen Foundation.

Seeing how rural Bangladeshis struggled to borrow sums as small as 27 dollars in the early 1970s, Yunus decided to offer himself as a guarantor to help them receive bank loans.

"Microcredit for me is a social business enterprise, an enterprise to help people get out of poverty," he has said.

Grameen Bank focused mainly on women and was "an inclusive bank. We never reject anybody," he said.

The biennial Seoul Peace Prize, established in 1990, marks the achievements of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

Other recipients have included UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel, and international relief organisations such as Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam.