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ElBaradei and IAEA win Nobel Prize

October 7, 2005

By Alister Doyle

OSLO (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog and its head
Mohamed ElBaradei won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in
an award calculated to help efforts to banish the peril of
nuclear arms six decades after Hiroshima.

The Nobel Committee praised the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) and ElBaradei, a 63-year-old Egyptian, for work
to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to new states and to
terrorists, and to ensure safe civilian use of nuclear energy.

ElBaradei learned he had won from television news at home
after missing a telephone call to his Vienna office from the
Nobel Committee in Norway.

ElBaradei “was very humbled by the announcement. Surprised,
humbled,” IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire said. “He sees this as
support to what the agency has been doing in the field of
non-proliferation, in the field of disarmament.”

Congratulations came from world leaders like Britain’s Tony
Blair and France’s Jacques Chirac, who said he was “delighted.”
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the 1990 laureate,
praised ElBaradei for doing his job “solidly and responsibly.”

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, also a peace laureate,
called it “a welcome reminder of the acute need to make
progress on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation and
disarmament.”

The IAEA has had little success in recent standoffs with
Iran and North Korea and ElBaradei has faced criticism from
many quarters, most recently from both the United States and
Iran in his efforts to investigate Tehran’s nuclear program.

Washington had opposed his reappointment to a new term.

He came to prominence before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq
in 2003 by challenging Washington’s argument that Saddam
Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were
found after the overthrow of Saddam. A program discovered in
the early 1990s appeared to have been abandoned as Iraq had
said.

“UNAFRAID”

Some experts say the IAEA has achieved too little in North
Korea and Iran to merit the prize. Elbaradei is unbowed.

“There have been two nuclear shocks to the world already,”
ElBaradei once said. “The Chernobyl accident and the IAEA’s
discovery of Iraq’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. It is
vital we do all in our power to prevent a third.”

The Nobel Committee, acknowledging that the world’s lack of
progress in nuclear disarmament, expressed hope that this award
would spur work to outlaw atomic weapons 60 years after the
U.S. atom bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki.

ElBaradei was an “unafraid advocate” of measures to
strengthen non-proliferation, it said. He and the IAEA had been
among favorites for the award and won from a record field of
199 candidates ranging from presidents to Irish rock star Bono.

“At a time when disarmament efforts appear deadlocked, when
there is a danger that nuclear arms will spread both to states
and to terrorist groups, and when nuclear power again appears
to be playing an increasingly significant role, IAEA’s work is
of incalculable importance,” the Committee said.

The prize, named after Sweden’s Alfred Nobel, a
philanthropist and inventor of dynamite, is worth $1.3 million
and is due to be handed out in Oslo on December 10.

The 2004 prize also went to an African, Kenyan
environmentalist Wangari Maathai. ElBaradei was the first
Egyptian winner since President Anwar Sadat in 1978.

CRITICISM OF U.S.?

Nobel Committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said the prize
was not a veiled criticism of Washington after ElBaradei and
President George W. Bush feuded over Iraq.

“This is not a kick in the legs to any country,” he told a
news conference. A former chairman described the 2002 prize to
former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as a “kick in the legs” to
Bush.

Still, one expert said the prize would have clearly been
less controversial if it had gone to the IAEA alone.
ElBaradei’s inclusion “is an implicit criticism of the United
States,” said Stein Toennesson, head of the Peace Research
Institute, Oslo.

The 2005 award seems to confirm an anti-nuclear trend on
major anniversaries of Hiroshima.

In 1995, British ban-the-bomb scientist Joseph Rotblat won
with his Pugwash organization. And in 1985, the award went to a
U.S-Soviet group of doctors, International Physicians for the
Prevention of Nuclear War.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has concentrated on the
struggle to diminish the significance of nuclear arms in
international politics, with a view to their abolition,” the
committee said in a statement.

“That the world has achieved little in this respect makes
active opposition to nuclear arms all the more important
today,” it said.

(With extra reporting by John Acher, James Kilner and Terje
Solsvik in Oslo, Francois Murphy in Vienna)




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