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UN Atomic Energy Agency and Its Head Honored

Award expected to bolster efforts to curb spread of nuclear weapons

by Lois Ember
October 11, 2005

From a field of nearly 200 nominations, the Nobel Committee awarded the 2005 Peace Prize to Mohamed ElBaradei and the organization he heads, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency. The $1.3 million prize will be shared equally between ElBaradei and the agency.

The Nobel Committee recognized ElBaradei and IAEA “for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.”

ElBaradei, 63, joined IAEA in 1984 and became its head in 1997. He earned a doctorate in international law at New York University School of Law in 1974 and then served as a diplomat for the Egyptian government.

ElBaradei rammed heads with the Bush Administration in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war by challenging claims that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons. Recently, he and IAEA have refused to support U.S. charges that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program, although they have called on Iran to dispel international concerns over its nuclear goals or face referral to the UN Security Council.

This year, the U.S. unsuccessfully lobbied to block ElBaradei’s reappointment to a third and final four-year term as IAEA’s director general. The Nobel recognition is expected to strengthen ElBaradei’s hand and that of his agency’s efforts to block nuclear weapons proliferation.

In its statement, the Nobel Committee said: “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.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called to congratulate ElBaradei and later released a statement saying the U.S. was “committed to working with the IAEA to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology.”



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