Nobel Peace Prize Winners
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SPOKESMAN: The Nobel Peace Prize for 2005 is to be shared in two equal parts between the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and its Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei.
KWAME HOLMAN: The announcement in Oslo, Norway brought cheers, hugs and smiles in Vienna, Austria, the city the IAEA calls home. The nuclear agency was created in 1957 by the United Nations to oversee the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. That mandate since has evolved to responsibility for stopping the development and spread of nuclear arms.
At the IAEA’S helm the past eight years, Mohamed ElBaradei, the 63-year-old Egyptian lawyer and former diplomat. He became an international figure in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003. His agency dispatched weapons inspectors to Iraq and he was caught in the middle of claims and counter claims between the Bush administration and Saddam Hussein over Iraq’s alleged nuclear capabilities. Here was ElBaradei at the U.N. Security Council in January, 2003, two months before the U.S. invasion, urging more inspections and the postponement of military action.
MOHAMED ElBARADEI: We have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapon program since the elimination of the program in the 1990s. However, our work is steadily progressing, and should be allowed to run its natural course.
KWAME HOLMAN: And again, days before the war began.
MOHAMED ElBARADEI: There is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear related prohibited activities at any inspected sites. Second, there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990. Three, there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment.
After three months of inclusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.
KWAME HOLMAN: ElBaradei walked a delicate line at the Security Council haunted by the memory that the IAEA and its inspectors completely missed Iraq’s nuclear capabilities before the first Gulf War. In the contentious diplomatic months before the second Iraq war, ElBaradei appeared on the NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: When the president spoke on the subject last October, he said "The evidence indicates that Iraq has reconstituting its nuclear weapons program." Are you saying that so far you found no evidence of that?
MOHAMED ElBARADEI (Jan. 28, 2003): Overall, we haven’t seen any evidence of a revival of the nuclear weapons program in Iraq, but we have not done — we have not completed our job yet.
KWAME HOLMAN: That contrasted with the Bush administration’s assessment. The vice president appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY (March 16, 2003): We believe he has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei, frankly, is wrong, and I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency in this kind of issue, especially where Iraq is concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing.
KWAME HOLMAN: In the end, ElBaradei never did endorse US claims that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear weapons program.
In the last few years he has focused more attention on North Korea and Iran, alleged to be developing nuclear weapons of their own. Last year he sat down with Margaret Warner to discuss efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons not only among nations but on the black market and to terrorist groups.
MOHAMED ElBARADEI: There’s a lot of measures we need to take, control of the nuclear material, better export control, better authority for the agency, less countries having enrichment processing. So people should not sit on their laurels and say we are safe. We are not safe unless we take a lot of measures.
KWAME HOLMAN: Suggesting ElBaradei was insufficiently critical of Iran’s nuclear program, the Bush administration initially opposed his recent reappointment to a third term as the agency’s director general. However, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called ElBaradei today to offer congratulations.
In Vienna, ElBaradei praised his co-workers and said the award would help their work go forward.
MOHAMED ElBARADEI: It will strengthen the integrity of the agency, the fact that there is overwhelming public support for our work definitely will hopefully help to resolve some of that major outstanding issues we are facing today.
KWAME HOLMAN: ElBaradei and the IAEA will share the $1.3 million peace prize award.