Promoters of Freedom Get Roosevelt Awards

The Associated Press
Saturday, May 13, 2006; 9:12 PM

MIDDELBURG, Netherlands -- The Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi _ confined by the Burmese government _ was not there, but the U.N. nuclear watchdog, a Mexican writer and a Bangladeshi economist accepted awards Saturday for promoting freedom.

The award ceremony paid tribute to those who promoted the freedoms of speech and worship and freedoms from fear and want outlined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a famous 1941 speech.

The honors are awarded by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, in alternate years to Americans in a ceremony in New York and to international personalities in the Netherlands.

Roosevelt's granddaughter, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, praised Suu Kyi, who is under long-term house arrest in Yangon, as a leader who has seen the power of fear when wielded by an oppressive regime.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian head of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, sidestepped the deadlock over Iran's nuclear enrichment program, to stress the commonality of all people.

"Regardless of differences in nationality, ethnicity, culture or faith, it is high time to understand that we are all part of one human family with shared core values," he told the invited audience of royalty and dignitaries.

Dutch Princess Maxima paid tribute to Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi founder of the Grameen Bank and creator of microcredit banking, as "a revolutionary who took the creative energy of capitalism and combined it with the moral obligations of social responsibility."

Yunus said his widely imitated system of giving small loans to impoverished villagers has lifted more than half of its borrowers above the poverty line. He claimed a 99 percent recovery rate of the billions of dollars he has loaned, mostly to women, in the past 30 years.

Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican author whose father was the ambassador to the Roosevelt administration, cautioned against trampling freedoms as it tries to defend freedom.

"A free society cannot confront, much less defeat, its enemies if it renounces the values of freedom, mistakenly believing that by imitating the enemy's ruthlessness we will win," he said.

© 2006 The Associated Press