Barack Obama has said he does not feel he deserves to be in the company of other Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Obama has called for a reduction in the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons

Obama immediately vowed to give the $1.4 million (£883,000) prize to charity.

In a press conference he said he felt humbled by his surprise win but did not feel on a par with other “transformative” winners.

In his first public reaction to the award in the White House Rose Garden he said: “I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel committee.

“Let me be clear. I do not view it a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

“To be honest, I do not feel I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize.”

Obama ‘Surprised And Humbled’ By Award

The Norwegian Nobel Committee selected him for the honour despite the US president being in office for less than a year.

The actual announcement in Oslo even drew audible gasps from some onlookers.

The committee praised Obama’s “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”.

Obama has called for nuclear disarmament and worked to restart the stalled Middle East peace process since taking office in January.

The committee said: “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.

“His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”

The committee said it attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work towards a world without nuclear weapons.

The choice makes Obama the third sitting US president to win the peace prize.

While his name had been mentioned in speculation before the award, many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to reward him.

Karzai: Obama ‘appropriate’ winner

The Taliban condemned the decision, saying Obama had “not taken a single step towards peace in Afghanistan”, although Afghan president Hamid Karzai said Obama was the “appropriate” person to win the prize.

Sky’s foreign affairs editor, Tim Marshall, said: “There will be people who will say this is a marvellous, inspired award.

“But next year let’s give it to Miss World. Every year Miss World comes on and says ‘I want world peace and the world free of nuclear weapons’. It’s a hope, an aspiration.

“The deadline for nominations for the peace prize was February 1, so someone nominated the President of America for his achievements 11 days into his presidency.

Barroso: ‘Safer world’

“This is a Nobel Peace Prize for not being George Bush. And I think it has been devalued.”

Nonetheless, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said it would encourage people hoping to build a safer world.

And the UN’s nuclear watchdog chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, said he was “absolutely delighted”.

Sky News White House commentator Jon-Christopher Bua, a former Clinton aide, said: “This is a gift to Obama’s political detractors as it will be seen as just another bit of collusion with the European elite.”

And Sky’s Middle East correspondent Dominic Waghorn said there was a sense of disbelief among the people he had spoken to about the award.

“Some have said you shouldn’t win awards for trying,” he explained.

“He hasn’t achieved anything yet, at least in the Middle East, which is central to his philosophy of trying to bring America and the Muslim world back together.

“He has tried but a lot of people here believe he’s made matters worse.”

The prize, worth $1.4m (£880,000), will be handed over in Oslo on December 10. Mr Obama will collect it in person.