Syrian doctors and activists condemned the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons yesterday (Friday), saying it had handed a victory to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Nobel Prize committee said OPCW had won for its past work, not because of last month's deal under which it is to destroy Syria's chemical weapons.
However, Thorbjorn Jagland, the committee chairman, added: "Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons."
Supporters of the Syrian rebel cause believe the honour represents tacit support for the deal under which OPCW was allowed into Syria.
That was negotiated by Russia as a way of warding off American intervention, and the Syrian opposition said it allowed Mr Assad to consolidate his grip on power.
"Giving the award to OPCW means that a third goes to it, a third to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and a third to Bashar," said Dr Qasem al-Zain, who became one of the best-known faces of the uprising, treating injured rebels and civilians in the siege of Qusayr this year.
"I think it's part of the international game being played against Syria, to turn attention away from what the regime is doing."
Louay al-Mokdad, a spokesman of the Free Syrian Army, said: "They forgot about our blood. Our problem is not just chemical weapons." The award continues the committee's recent trend of making politically symbolic awards to organisations and national leaders.
Other recent winners have included the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, President Barack Obama in his first year in office and, last year, the European Union.
Among the high-profile nominees overlooked were Malala Yousafzai, the teenager shot by the Taliban in Pakistan for campaigning for education for girls, and Mr Putin, for vetoing Western intervention on behalf of the rebels in the Syrian conflict.
OPCW, which is based in The Hague and has 189 member countries and 500 staff, was an unexpected late addition.
It became prominent after the chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburbs of East and West Ghouta in August.
The criticism of the award was taken up by analysts and human rights workers, who pointed out that the organisation was being honoured only after a large-scale chemical weapons attack had taken place.
"I would have thought 2013 would have been a year for soul searching at OPCW, not accolades," said Nadim Houry, director of the Beirut office of Human Rights Watch.
The award was welcomed by Britain. Hugh Robertson, the new Foreign Office minister, said: "The UK is providing an initial contribution of pounds 2 million to support the work of the OPCW in Syria and we stand ready to provide further assistance."
Ahmet Uzumcu, OPCW's director-general, said: "I truly hope that this award and the OPCW's ongoing mission together with the United Nations in Syria will help efforts to achieve peace in that country and end the suffering of its people."
Former classmates of Malala at her school in the Swat Valley town of Mingora expressed disappointment. "All her friends wanted to see her winning," Yasmin Begum, a pupil, said.
"I don't believe my ears, because I was confident after everything she'd been through that she would get the prize."
But elsewhere in the town, there was much less resentment.
Many residents feared a win for the schoolgirl's high profile campaign against the Taliban could have provoked revenge attacks.
"She doesn't deserve it at all," said Shoaib Khan, who works in a local bank.
He added that there was widespread opposition to her efforts to get girls into school, a campaign many believed was being orchestrated by shadowy foreign forces.
The Pakistani Taliban said it was "delighted" she had not won.
(By Richard Spencer in Cairo and Rob Crilly in Mingora, Pakistan)