The world's conscience should be haunted for its failure to help the democratic uprising in Yemen, where President Ali Abdullah Saleh will choose civil war rather than quit, said an activist accepting the Nobel Peace Prize Saturday.

Speaking after receiving the prize at a ceremony in Oslo, 32-year-old Yemeni journalist Tawakul Karman said Saleh, who promised last month to stand down by February, will not leave. He wants to (push) the country into civil war.

If the international community does not freeze his money and that of high officials and his family, he will continue to try to (lead) the country into civil war, she told Reuters in an interview in Oslo.

Karman's prize - shared with Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and a Liberian activist, Leymah Gbowee - was the Nobel committee's response to what its head, Thorbjoern Jagland, called the wind that is now blowing in the Arab world.

No dictator can in the long run find shelter from this wind of history, Jagland said at the ceremony.

So far this year, uprisings have toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya - who ruled for decades with little opposition, only to suddenly face mass pro-democracy movements which they tried with varying degrees of ferocity to suppress.

Yemen's Saleh, in power for 33 years, would be the next to go if he fulfills his pledge to step down under a deal negotiated by neighbouring states, which he finally signed last month after repeatedly pulling out at the last minute.

His country, the Arab world's poorest, already faces sectarian violence, a separatist revolt in the south and a potent al Qaeda security threat. A crackdown on protests against his rule has grown more violent over nine months, with his security forces battling militia led by tribal chiefs.

Syria's Bashar al-Assad is also battling a violent revolt.

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, Jagland said.

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.

Violence overshadowed the first meeting Saturday of Yemen's new unity government, tasked with trying to avert civil war under the power transfer deal.

Karman said she was confident Saleh would eventually be forced out, despite repeatedly breaking promises to go.

The only ones who can force him to leave is the peaceful revolution. It works: we forced him to sign (the agreement backed by Yemen's Gulf neighbours) and we will continue.

The international community will respond to the demand of the Yemeni people. They will not continue their delay. We will hear good news in the coming days, she told Reuters.


During her prize acceptance speech, the 32-year-old journalist rebuked the international community for failing to support the Yemen uprising.

This should haunt the world's conscience because it challenges the very idea of fairness and justice, she said.

The democratic world, which has told us a lot about the virtues of democracy and good governance, should not be indifferent to what is happening in Yemen and Syria.

These (Arab leaders) should be brought to justice before the International Criminal Court; there should be no immunity for killers who rob the food of the people, she added.

The transfer of power deal in Yemen promises Saleh immunity from prosecution if he fulfills his pledge to stand down, which has angered many protesters.

When it comes to her own personal future, Karman told Reuters she harboured ambitions for high office.

I am ready to answer the call of the people if they want me to be president to achieve the goals of the ... revolution and protect it, she said.

Jagland said women's rights must be a key focus in the aftermath of change in North Africa and the Middle East, where Islamist parties have performed strongly in elections.

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.

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.

(Editing by Peter Graff)