Oslo: The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency Mohamed ElBaradei Saturday received the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize and called for a world free of atomic weapons, saying existing nuclear states should lead by example.
“If we hope to escape self-destruction, then nuclear weapons should have no place in our collective conscience, and no role in our security,” ElBaradei said in his acceptance speech at a ceremony in Oslo's City Hall.
“We must ensure, absolutely, that no more countries acquire nuclear weapons: that nuclear weapon states take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament; and we must put in place a security system that does not rely on nuclear deterrence,” he added.
ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), represented by the chairman of its board of governors, Yukiya Amano, were jointly honored on Saturday for “their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes”.
They received their distinction from the chairman of the Nobel Committee Ole Mjoes 60 years after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on August 6 and 9, 1945, the world's only nuclear attacks.
“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,” Mjoes said.
In his acceptance speech, ElBaradei emphasized that the threat of nuclear proliferation was closely linked to inequalities in the world.
“In regions where conflicts have been left to fester for decades, countries continue to look for ways to offset their insecurities or project their power … They may be tempted to seek their own weapons of mass destruction, like others who have preceded them,” he said.
Fifteen years after the Cold War came to an end, the IAEA chief lamented that “we may have torn down the walls between East and West, but we have yet to build the bridges between North and South, the rich and the poor.”
To rid the world of the threat of nuclear weapons, “a good start would be if the nuclear weapons states reduced the strategic role given to these weapons,” he said.
“Today, eight or nine countries possess nuclear weapons. Today we still have 27,000 warheads in existence. To me, this is 27,000 too many,” he added.
The IAEA and its chief have most recently been instrumental in thorny nuclear negotiations with Iran, threatening to take the country before the UN Security Council for violating nuclear non-proliferation rules.
Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is merely designed to meet domestic energy needs, while the United States, Israel and others have charged it is a cover for a programme to develop an atom bomb.
On Saturday, ElBaradei said that to avoid such ambiguity, he planned to set up a “reserve fuel bank” under IAEA control.
“This assurance of supply will remove the incentive, and the justification, for each country to develop its own fuel cycle,” he said.
Ending his speech on an upbeat note, ElBaradei asked the audience to “imagine what would happen if the nations of the world spent as much on development as on the machines of war.”
“Imagine that the only nuclear weapons remaining are the relics in our museums. Imagine the legacy we could leave to our children. Imagine that such a world is actually within our grasp,” he concluded.
The agency and its director received their award, consisting of a Nobel diploma, a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (1.3 million dollars, 1.1 million euros) to be split between them, in a brightly decorated City Hall, decked with yellow orchids and carnations, and in the presence of Norway's King Harald.
At a separate ceremony on Saturday, the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel, the winners of this year's literature, medicine, physics, chemistry and economics prizes received their awards from King Carl XVI Gustaf in Stockholm's Concert Hall.
That ceremony was to be followed by a gala banquet at Stockholm's City Hall for 1,300 guests.