The International Atomic Energy Agency and its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, have won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize and will share the world's most prestigious prize. The prize, announced Friday, went to the two "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." Vice Premier Shimon Peres, himself a former Nobel Peace Prize winner, said, "ELBaradei is a worthy winner, although not the perfect choice," Army Radio reported. "There are holes in the (IAEA) apparatus for deterring a culture of nuclear weapons, as in the case with Iran, but the agency certainly has done much in the prevention of nuclear weapons from reaching dangerous hands, said Peres." In Vienna, where the agency is based, IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Flemming said: "This is the most proud moment of my career at the IAEA. I never thought we'd see this day. This is the proudest day for the IAEA. We are proud, astonished, elated. For an organization like us there is no prouder award." ElBaradei, an Egyptian lawyer, has headed the UN nuclear agency as it grappled with the crises in Iraq and North Korea and now Iran. He has led the International Atomic Energy Agency as it rose in prominence from a nondescript bureaucracy monitoring nuclear sites worldwide to a pivotal institution at the vortex of efforts to disarm the two regimes. The austere and methodical diplomat took a strident line as he guided the IAEA through the most serious troubles it faced since the end of the Cold War. He accused North Korea, for example, of "nuclear brinkmanship" in December 2002 after it expelled two inspectors who were monitoring a mothballed nuclear complex. Pyongyang said the plant needed to go back on line in light of an electricity shortage.

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