PARIS, 8 Oct. (IPS) Iran reacted with a quasi indifference, if not anger, at the nomination of the United Nations International nuclear watchdog and it’s General Director as the winner of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for 2005.
The Egyptian diplomat Mohamed ElBarade’i and his International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) won the award on Friday, strengthening him and his Vienna-based organisation in efforts of diplomacy rather than confrontation to settle complicated problems concerning nuclear non proliferation.
Absent from the long list of head of states that congratulated Mr. ElBarade’i is the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad.
“The West has awarded Mohammad ElBaradade’i and his Agency for the good services he has offered it by taking the Iranian nuclear issue as hostage”, commented the hard lone “Keyhan” newspaper, a mouthpiece for the orthodox Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i.
"Since the start of the crisis, Mohamed ElBarade’i always resisted US pressure and his reports were more technical. But recently, for some reason, he has changed his position and his last report was very political", said one top Iranian official, who asked not to be named.
Absent from the long list of head of states that congratulated Mr. ElBarade’i, including the American president George W. Bush and his Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleezza Rice as well as , both staunch adversaries of the IAEA’s boss for his role in contesting Washington’s insistence that the now toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction in the one hand and his handling of Iranian nuclear programs on the other, was the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad.
En plus of his challenging the United States claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, a propos that proved to be correct after the United States invaded Iraq and toppled Mr. Hussein, he also refusal to back Washington’s assertions that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program.
After the award was announced, ElBarade’i refrained from criticizing the United States in comments to Associated Press Television News and other media outlets.
"I don't see it as a critique of the U.S. We had disagreement before the Iraq war, honest disagreement. We could have been wrong, they could have been right", he said, adding that the conflict with Washington was over.
Describing his phone conversation with Ms. Rice, ElBarade’i said they both "agreed that we will have to continue to work together" on issues including dispelling suspicions about Iran's nuclear ambitions and getting North Korea to return to the nonproliferation fold.
"The award sends a very strong message: 'Keep doing what you are doing”, he said. "We continue to believe that in all of our activities we have to be impartial, objective and work with integrity".
"This is not a kick in the shin of any nation, any leader", said Nobel committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes. "It is a challenge to all leaders in the world and all the world's nations to go much further on the road toward ridding the world of nuclear weapons".
French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, both strong critics of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam and Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair who, with France and Germany is Iran’s main negotiator on nuclear issue, praised ElBaradei's "courageous stand for an objective view of the situation in the run-up to the Iraq war".
However, the Award has left Iran fearful of facing intensified pressure over its hotly disputed nuclear program, according to the French news agency AFP.
"There are two ways in which to view the award of this prize”, said Kazem Jalali, the spokesman for the Majles’ Foreign and National Security Affairs. “The optimistic hypothesis is that the prize will reinforce the role of the agency and the technical work it does to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
"The pessimistic hypothesis is that with this prize, Mr ElBarade’i will become closer to the political position of the United States and the Europeans, especially on the nuclear issue. And he will put more pressure on Iran. "In my opinion I think that the second hypothesis is the closer to reality", Jalali added.
Iran, accused by the United States and Israel of using its nuclear energy drive as cover for weapons ambitions, has always sought to counter those claims by working within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“The West has awarded Mohammad ElBaradade’i and his Agency for the good services he has offered it".
"The attitude of ElBaradei has not been consistent on the Iranian nuclear issue", Mr. Jalali said, adding; "He was trapped between a technical and legalistic vision and a political attitude".
The Nobel committee recognized ElBaradei and the U.N. 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 in a statement.
In its strong commentary, Keyhan openly accused Mr. ElBarade’i and the IAEA as well as the Nobel Committee of working against Iran.
“It is clear that political intentions and objectives always are instrumental as to who might go the Nobel Peace Prize. However, in the past years, the Award has particularly targeted the Islamic Republic of Iran, as two years ago, it was given to (Mrs) Shirin Ebadi who has several cases of dubious legal affairs, contacts with foreigners and activities against the security of the regime”, the paper said, referring to the internationally acclaimed and praised lawyer and human rights campaigner.
ElBaradei's agency has been pivotal in nearly three years of investigations into Iran's suspect nuclear activities, including programs that can be used for making weapons.
Last month, the IAEA warned Iran to fully comply with the NPT regulations and respect engagements taken at a meeting with the EU3, Namely Britain, France and Germany last November of faces the Security Council of the United Nations for possible economic sanctions.
Negotiations between Iran and Britain, France and Germany to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis broke down in August, when Iran resumed nuclear fuel cycle work in defiance of a pledge to freeze such activities during the talks.
“Another interesting point the distribution of the Nobel Peace Prize is that in the past years, it has become a tool at the hands of the West in order to advance its policies against one single country, that is Iran”, the paper said, oblivion of the fact that the Nobel Peace institution has nothing to the with the West, as wrongly claimed by Keyhan.
The award was the highlight in the career of ElBarade’i, who followed his father's footsteps in 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.
ElBarade’i 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.
ElBarade’i is the second Egyptian to win the Nobel Peace Prize. President Anwar Sadat received the honor in 1978 for negotiating a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
The Nobel committee received a record 199 nominations for the peace prize, which includes $1.3 million, a gold medal and a diploma. ElBarade’i and the IAEA will share the award when they receive it Dec. 10 in the Norwegian capital, Oslo. ENDS IRAN IAEA AWARD 81005