ElBaradei, IAEA Win Peace Prize

VIENNA -- Mohamed ElBaradei prides himself on remaining cool under pressure, but he showed unusual flashes of emotion on learning that he and his International Atomic Energy Agency had won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.

His eyes misted up several times behind his glasses as he spoke Friday with reporters about the delight -- and surprise -- he felt when he heard on television that he and the UN nuclear watchdog he heads had been picked to share the world's most prestigious award.

"This came as an absolute surprise to me," the austere 63-year-old Egyptian told reporters. "I was just on my feet with my wife, hugging and kissing and full of joy and full of pride."

Because he stayed home Friday instead of coming into his office, he missed the Nobel committee's phone call to IAEA's Vienna headquarters, as well as a visit from Norwegian diplomats bearing a floral bouquet.

ElBaradei figured someone else had been honored -- until he heard his name on television.

The Nobel endorsement has particular resonance for ElBaradei, strengthening him in a job he nearly lost over a dispute with the United States over Iran and Iraq. His winning, he suggested, vindicated his methods and goals -- using diplomacy rather than confrontation and defusing tensions in multilateral negotiations that strive for consensus.

The award was the highlight in the career of ElBaradei, who followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a lawyer before working as a diplomat for Egypt's government and later a top aide to the foreign minister. He received a doctorate in international law at the New York University School of Law in 1974 and later became an adjunct professor there.

ElBaradei joined the IAEA in 1984 and rose through the ranks of the 139-nation agency, becoming its head in 1997. Naturally shy, he grew into the job as the IAEA dealt with crises in Iraq, North Korea and Iran, becoming an ever more outspoken advocate of nonproliferation in comments that mutated from stilted statements to polished sound bites.

The Nobel committee recognized ElBaradei and the UN nuclear agency "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way."

"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," it said.

The Nobel committee received a record 199 nominations for the peace prize, which includes 10 million kronor, a gold medal and a diploma. ElBaradei and the IAEA will share the award when they receive it Dec. 10 in Oslo.