Friday, October 7, 2005 Posted: 1644 GMT (0044 HKT)

【OSLO, Norway (CNN)--The U.N. nuclear watchdog and its head, Mohamed ElBaradei,

won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their efforts to limit the spread of

atomic weapons.】



ElBaradei told CNN he was "overwhelmed." He said it was "a shot in the arm" for

his agency and would strengthen its resolve in dealing with major issues like

North Korea and Iran.


The Norwegian Nobel Committee picked the International Atomic Energy Agency

(IAEA) and ElBaradei, an Egyptian, from a record field of 199 candidates.

It praised ElBaradei as an "unafraid advocate" of measures to strengthen

non-proliferation efforts. (Full citation)


The prize is to be split equally between the agency and ElBaradei. He promised

the money would be spent on "good causes."


He told a news conference 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," ElBaradei said. "It's a responsibility but it's also a shot

in the arm."


ElBaradei told CNN: "I feel a lot of responsibility on my shoulder -- the

prize meaning stay the course and do more of the same.

"We have a lot of difficult issues ahead of us. So it strengthens my

resolve but I am very conscious of the heavy responsibility I and my

team have to shoulder."



El Baradei and the IAEA were among the favorites for this year's award,

which comes 60 years after the U.S. atomic bombings of the Japanese cities

of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.


The 1995 and 1985 prizes went to ban-the-bomb campaigners, and many experts

expected the Nobel committee to also commemorate the 1945 bombing this year.



ElBaradei, a 63-year-old attorney, has been at the helm of the IAEA as it

dealt with suspected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and nuclear

programs in Iran and North Korea. (ElBaradei profile)


On Iran, ElBaradei said the message to Tehran was that the international

community had full confidence in the IAEA in its nuclear inspections.

"The ball is now back in Iran's court," he said. "I would like close that

file as early as I can. But it very much depends on Iran's transparency

and cooperation."



ElBaradei first assumed the post in 1997 and recently was reappointed to

a third term.


"On behalf of IAEA staff, we're all stunned," the organization's spokeswoman,

Melissa Fleming, told CNN. "We're all very emotional. We're just feeling very,

very proud of our director-general."



ElBaradei's wife, Aida, told CNN, "He worked very, very hard and is still

doing so. It's always one of the dreams, but I guess sometimes dreams come

true."

She said she hoped the prize would draw more attention to the issue of nuclear

non-proliferation, something she described as her husband's passion, although

the work can be difficult and stressful.


Her comments were echoed by Fleming.

"We're just thrilled that this is going to strengthen our cause. We're very

convinced that we're going to have a stronger hand in our fight for nuclear

non-proliferation and strengthening nuclear security ... I think everyone

now in the world will know what a central role IAEA plays in making the world

a more secure place in the nuclear realm."



The issue of nuclear power has been in the spotlight this year, both because

the IAEA played key roles in negotiations with Iran and North Korea and the

60th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of

Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


"In the nuclear non-proliferation regime, it is the IAEA which controls that

nuclear energy is not misused for military purposes, and the director general

has stood out as an unafraid advocate of new measures to strengthen that regime,"

Ole Danbolt Mjos, chairman of the Nobel committee, said in making the

announcement.

"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."


He noted that in his will, Alfred Nobel wrote that the Peace Prize should be

awarded to whoever had done the most to further "abolition or reduction of

standing armies," among other criteria.


A dissenting note came from the environmental group Greenpeace, which said

it was "shocked" at the award, arguing that the U.N. agency's promotion of

atomic energy has increased the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.


"With the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to such an organization, the

meaning of this instrument of peace is seriously put into question," Jan

van de Putte, an atomic expert with Greenpeace, said in a statement.


ElBaradei received a bachelor's degree in law from the University of Cairo,

and a doctorate in international law from the New York University School

of Law, according to his biography on the IAEA's Web site. He also has

received various honorary degrees.


Last year, the Nobel committee awarded the prize to Kenyan environmentalist

Wangari Muta Maathai, "for her contribution to sustainable development,

democracy and peace."

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