WASHINGTON – Jimmy Carter came back to the White House Monday as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate -- and a frequent critic of the current administration, although he accepted President Bush's praise with one of his trademark grins.
The Carter family toured the White House and had a chance to visit with old friends who worked there when Carter was president more than 20 years ago.
"I want to welcome this year's Nobel laureates to the Oval Office," Bush said during a brief photo session. "I want to welcome somebody who spent a lot of quality time here. ... President Carter, Mrs. Carter, we're so honored to have you as well as the other distinguished Americans who are here with us."
Carter stood just to the right of Bush in a line of Nobel laureates that included:
--Raymond Davis Jr. of Blue Point, N.Y., physics.
--Riccardo Giacconi of Washington, physics.
--John B. Fenn of Richmond, Va., chemistry.
--H. Robert Horvitz of Cambridge, Mass., physiology/medicine.
--Vernon Smith of Fairfax, Va., economics.
"These Americans are a great honor to their fields and a great honor to their country," Bush said. "We're proud of what you've done not only for America but for the world."
The former president made no comments during the Oval Office session and did not speak with reporters outside the White House afterward. His son, James E. "Chip" Carter III, was in the press room Monday afternoon and said the Carters were excited to visit after winning the Nobel.
"President Clinton invited us in about three years ago as a family," the younger Carter said. "We got to show our kids what it was like and we got to stay up at Camp David. But this means a lot more."
Carter, 78, won the Nobel last month for his "untiring effort" to peacefully solve international conflicts and to advance democracy and human rights. The prize came with an extraordinary rebuke aimed at Bush by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which contrasted Carter's efforts at creating Mideast peace through diplomacy against Bush's vow to oust Iraq's Saddam Hussein by force if necessary.
In September, Carter said he was disturbed by administration threats to take military action against Iraq without the blessing of the United Nations, and said he would have voted against the congressional resolution allowing the president to use force against Iraq. But he has praised Bush's leadership on Iraq in recent days.
"I'm grateful that our administration has changed its position and we are going to the United Nations, and have," Carter said Friday on CNN. "There will be inspections." Carter said it was "beneficial" that the United States had reserved the right to take action against Iraq if it won't disarm and the U.N. Security Council does nothing.
Carter also has challenged the Bush administration to end the 40-year-old trade embargo against Cuba. He criticized U.S. policy during a May visit to Cuba, when he became the first current or former American president to visit the island during Fidel Castro's regime.
And he chided Bush for not following through on diplomatic efforts with North Korea. Carter negotiated a 1994 deal in which the communist nation agreed to scrap its nuclear weapons program, but the pact was nullified last month when North Korea acknowledged maintaining such a program.
Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were also nominated for the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in the war against terrorism.
Carter collects his award Dec. 10 in Oslo, Norway. He has said he will donate the prize money -- $943,000 -- to the Carter Center, which he established after leaving office, as well as the Rosalynn Carter Institute and several universities.