The man who took on George Bush and won (the Nobel Peace Prize, that is)

The Nobel committee bestowed the prestigious award for 2005 on Mohamed ElBaradei, the UN official who rose to prominence by exposing the lengths that America would go to in its efforts to build a case for war.

Mr ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which shares the prize, delivered a body blow to the Bush administration on the eve of the Iraq war.

During a televised meeting of the UN Security Council in March 2003, he told assembled foreign ministers that documents purporting to prove Iraq had attempted to import uranium from Niger to make a nuclear weapon were fake.

Leading lights of the Bush administration, particularly Condoleezza Rice and Vice-President Dick Cheney, had advanced Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons programme as a major reason for going to war.

Ms Rice memorably said of the UN weapons inspectors' search for a "smoking gun" before the war: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Britain also cited the now discredited Niger connection to push the case for immediate military action against Saddam, suggesting that he was in the process of adding a nuclear capacity to his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

No weapons of mass destruction of any sort, far less any evidence of a nuclear programme, have ever been discovered.

The recognition of Mr ElBaradei and the IAEA is also seen as a warning to President Bush- and to Tony Blair who backed Mr Bush over the invasion - against military strikes on Iran over its nuclear programme.

The underlying message of the Nobel committee, which said the threat of nuclear weapons "must be met through the broadest possible international co-operation", is that weapons inspections are a better way of dealing with any crisis than war.

The decision, which came on the 60th anniversary of the American atomic bomb strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, signals a move by the Nobel committee in Norway to return to its disarmament roots.

"This is a message to all the people of the world: Do what you can to get rid of nuclear weapons," said the committee chairman, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, as he announced the prize. "The people's power is formidable."

Egyptian-born Mr ElBaradei, who learned of the award as he was watching television at home with his wife, declared that the prize would be "a shot in the arm" for the IAEA, now sidelined over the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, the countries posing the biggest nuclear threat to world peace and security. The IAEA has also been refused access to the architect of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is now under house arrest.

Mr Khan was the informal CEO of an illicit nuclear supermarket that had dealings with more than 30 companies in 30 countries, and who passed nuclear secrets to North Korea and Libya.

Mr ElBaradei said at IAEA headquarters in Vienna: "The award sends a very strong message: 'Keep doing what you are doing - be impartial, act with integrity', and that is what we intend to do."

Mr ElBaradei said, to applause from UN staff: "The advantage of having this recognition today, it will strengthen my resolve."

He said the prize was a recognition that "the number one danger we are facing today" comes from the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation.

Described as a "fearless advocate" of disarmament, Mr ElBaradei's power is that he will not shy from telling politicians the unpalatable truth, based on spin-free verified evidence from on-the-ground inspections.

However it was not the IAEA, but Iranian defectors who first sounded the alarm about Iran's clandestine nuclear programme.

Investigations by the UN weapons inspectors proved Iran had been working on a nuclear programme for 18 years before they were caught red-handed.

Even now, after years of inspections, the IAEA has not decided conclusively that they are working on a weapons programme, which in any case they deny. On North Korea, the IAEA can only guess what is going on in the hermit regime because inspectors were thrown out in 2002.

Disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang have now, in effect, been taken over by six-party talks involving regional players and the United States.

Mr ElBaradei is the enforcer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. Since taking over as director-general of the IAEA in 1997,after moving up through the organisation during 13 years, he has particularly lambasted what he sees as double standards on the part of countries that have nuclear weapons, but which seek to prevent others from procuring them.

"We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some to pursue weapons of mass destruction, yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security - and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use," he said.

Mr ElBaradei's award is unlikely to please the Americans, who are working with the IAEA in hopes of referring Tehran to the UN Security Council for failing to come clean on the full extent of its nuclear programme.

John Bolton, now the US ambassador to the UN, launched an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Mr ElBaradei when Mr Bolton was still the top US official responsible for disarmament. But Mr ElBaradei has just been confirmed for a third term as the rest of the board, including Britain, rallied round his candidacy and the US withdrew its objection.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power