U.N. Nuke Watchdog Wins Nobel Peace Prize

By DOUG MELLGREN
.c The Associated Press


OSLO, Norway (AP) - Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic
Energy Agency won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their drive
to curb the spread of atomic weapons by using diplomacy to resolve
standoffs with Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs.

The Nobel Committee's decision lent support to negotiations and
inspections, not military action, as the best way to handle volatile
nations. It also was seen as a message to the Bush administration,
which invaded Iraq after claiming U.N. efforts to eradicate Saddam
Hussein's nuclear ambitions had failed and which opposed ElBaradei's
appointment to another term.

U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, once the U.S. point man on nuclear
nonproliferation and a key opponent of ElBaradei's reappointment,
refused to comment when asked if the prize was a rebuff to
U.S. strategy.

``I'll stick with the secretary's statement,'' he said Friday as he
entered the United Nations, referring to Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice's congratulations.

The Nobel committee said ElBaradei and the IAEA should be recognized
for addressing one of the greatest dangers facing the world.

``At a time when the threat of nuclear arms is again increasing, the
Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to underline that this threat must be
met through the broadest possible international cooperation. This
principle finds its clearest expression today in the work of the IAEA
and its director general,'' the committee said.

ElBaradei said in Vienna, Austria, that the prize ``sends a strong
message'' about the agency's disarmament efforts and will strengthen
his resolve to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

``The award basically sends a very strong message, which is: Keep
doing what you are doing,'' the 63-year-old Egyptian said. ``It's a
responsibility but it's also a shot in the arm. They want to give the
agency and me a shot in the arm to move forward.''

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he hoped the world would now
have a greater appreciation of the IAEA's work - and take it more
seriously.

``I hope that this award wakes us all up,'' he said.

ElBaradei, who was reappointed last month to a third term, has
contended with U.S. opposition to his tenure, much of it stemming from
Washington's perception he was too soft on Iran for not declaring it
in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

That stance blocked a U.S. bid to haul Tehran before the U.N.
Security Council, where it could face possible sanctions, for more
than two years. The IAEA passed a resolution last month warning Tehran
of such referral unless it allayed fears about its nuclear program.

ElBaradei also refused to endorse Washington's contention that Iran
was working to make nuclear weapons and disputed U.S. assertions that
Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq had an active atomic weapons program -
both claims that remain unproven, despite growing suspicions about
Tehran's nuclear agenda.

He later told the British Broadcasting Corp. he was unfazed by the
U.S. opposition.

``You cannot satisfy everybody,'' he said. ``It's a thankless job. You
will not be able to get everybody to applaud.''

ElBaradei and the agency had been among the names mentioned as
speculation mounted in recent days the Nobel committee would seek to
honor the victims of nuclear weapons and those who try to contain
their use.

The committee has repeatedly awarded its prize to anti-nuclear weapons
campaigners on the major anniversaries of the 1945 atomic bombings of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

``This is a message to all the people of the world: Do what you can to
get rid of nuclear weapons,'' Nobel committee chairman Ole Danbolt
Mjoes said. ``The people's power is formidable.''

On the 50th anniversary, in 1995, the prize went to anti-nuclear
campaigner Joseph Rotblat and his Pugwash group. In 1985, it went to
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and in 1975
to Soviet nuclear scientist-turned-anti-nuclear campaigner Andrei
Sakharov.

``We will never give up and we must never give in,'' Mjoes said.

A record 199 nominations were received for the prize, which includes
$1.3 million, a gold medal and a diploma. ElBaradei and the IAEA will
share the award when they receive it Dec. 10 in the Norwegian
capital.

The Nobel committee called ElBaradei ``an unafraid advocate'' of new
measures to stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

``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.

Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, a friend and colleague
of ElBaradei, told The Associated Press the award was ``very
encouraging and fortunate.''

``I see it as an endorsement of the professional and independent role
of the IAEA and of international verification in the field of nuclear
power and nonproliferation,'' Blix said.

Under ElBaradei, the IAEA has risen from a nondescript bureaucracy
monitoring nuclear sites worldwide to a pivotal institution at the
vortex of efforts to disarm Iran and North Korea.

Austere and methodical, ElBaradei took a strident line as he guided
the agency through the most serious troubles it faced since the end of
the Cold War.

He accused North Korea, for example, of ``nuclear brinkmanship'' in
December 2002 after it expelled two inspectors monitoring a mothballed
nuclear complex. Pyongyang said the plant needed to go back on line
because of an electricity shortage.

On the Net:

http://www.nobelprize.org



10/07/05 11:23 EDT