The chief U.S. representative to the U.N. atomic agency warned Iran again on Friday to ease fears about its nuclear program as the organization's 35-nation board met to discuss the impact of winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
The International Atomic Energy Agency and its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, jointly won the 2005 prize a week ago for what the Nobel Committee hailed as "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."
Gregory Schulte, Washington's chief envoy to the IAEA, said he conveyed a message from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling the award "well-deserved," and he said the honor would boost the agency's resolve and credibility around the world.
The decision to grant the prize to ElBaradei and the Vienna-based IAEA was viewed as strong vindication for the Egyptian diplomat, who favors diplomacy over confrontation in his work to curb nuclear proliferation and had locked horns with Washington before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"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, the IAEA's work is of incalculable importance," the Nobel Committee said in its Oct. 7 citation.
ElBaradei, an Egyptian, had publicly challenged U.S. claims that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
More recently, his refusal to back U.S. assertions that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program hardened opposition to him in U.S. President George W. Bush's administration, according to the AP.
The prize includes a cash award of 10 million kronor (Ђ1 million; US$1.3 million), a gold medal and a diploma. ElBaradei and the IAEA will share the award at a ceremony Dec. 10 in Oslo, Norway.
Diplomats on Friday were expected to discuss what the prestigious prize means for the future of the agency and how the prize money should be spent.
ElBaradei intends to donate his share "to charity and other good causes," agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.
Schulte said the United States had proposed that the agency use its share of the prize money to "be devoted to peaceful use of nuclear technology to promote human health in the developing world."