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ElBaradei Issues Nuclear Warning

Nuclear watchdog agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei warned Saturday in accepting the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize that humanity faces a choice between nuclear weapons and survival.

ElBaradei shared the coveted award with his International Atomic Energy Agency, cited for their drive to control the spread of nuclear weapons, especially to terrorists.

"If we hope to escape self-destruction, then I believe nuclear weapons should have no place in our collective conscience, and no role in our security," ElBaradei said in his acceptance speech.

"The hard part is: How do we create an environment in which all of us would look at nuclear weapons the way we look at slavery or genocide, as a taboo and a historical anomaly?" he said in thanking the Nobel committee for the honor.

The 63-year-old Egyptian and the IAEA's Board of Governors Chairman Yukiya Amano, from Japan, accepted the peace prize 60 years after the 1945 atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Six decades later and 15 years after the end of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear nightmare remains strong, ElBaradei said. The world community is deeply concerned about possible atomic weapons programs in Iran and North Korea, and terrorists' increasingly sophisticated efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.

"Our security strategies have not yet caught up with the security threats we are facing," ElBaradei said. "The globalization that has swept away the barriers to the movement of goods, ideas and people but has also removed barriers that confined and localized security threats."

Smiling broadly, ElBaradei and Amano, representing the agency, accepted their Nobel gold medals and diplomas from awards committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes at a gala ceremony in the Oslo City Hall, which was decorated with 6,000 carnations and 3,000 orchids.

Standing together on stage, they displayed the awards to applause from about 1,000 guests, including Norway's King Harald V and Queen Sonja, as well as Hollywood superstars Salma Hayek and Julianne Moore, and activist musician Bob Geldof.

The award also includes 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.3 million). ElBaradei said his half will go to orphanages in his native Egypt, while the IAEA plans to establish a fund for cancer and nutritional research.

"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," committee chairman Mjoes said.

Mjoes said the efforts of ElBaradei and IAEA had grown even more important because disarmament efforts appear deadlocked, nuclear weapons may spread to more countries and to terrorists, and renewed interested in nuclear power.

ElBaradei said part of his agency's efforts includes new "threats without borders" brought on by globalization.

"There are three main features to this changing landscape: first, the emergence of an extensive black market in nuclear material and equipment; second, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and sensitive nuclear technology; and third, the stagnation in nuclear disarmament," the laureate said.

He said measures were urgently needed to control all three.

When the Cold War ended 15 years ago, many hoped it would also end the balance of terror of nuclear weapons. Yet eight or nine countries still have nuclear arsenals, and more countries want them, ElBaradei said.

"It is baffling to many that the major nuclear-weapon states continue to maintain their arsenals on hair-trigger alert," he said. "Imagine that the only nuclear weapons remaining are the relics in our museums. Imagine the legacy we could leave to our children."

ElBaradei also said his idea is to set up a nuclear fuel bank under the IAEA so countries could have access to fissionable material for peaceful uses, such as power plants, without building their own atomic fuel processing centers that could also be used for weapons.

ElBaradei also underscored the peaceful side of the IAEA's nuclear watchdog role: ensuring the safest possible use of atomic materials for power plants, cancer treatments, research and science.

The Nobel prizes are always presented on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of founder Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. The peace prize is award in Oslo and the other awards in Stockholm, Sweden.

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