The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its director general Mohamed ElBaradei won wide applause Friday after winning the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday he was delighted that the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to the UN nuclear watchdog and its head ElBaradei.
"The secretary-general congratulates him and the entire staff of the agency, past and present, on their contributions to global peace," a spokesman for Annan said.
Egypt, ElBaradei's mother country, has been honored when the IAEA and its 63-year-old chief were awarded the prize, the official MENA news agency reported Friday.
A presidential statement hailed ElBaradei as "a son of Egypt and one of its most outstanding experts in disarmament issues."
The United States welcomed the IAEA and ElBaradei's winning of the award, saying it sent a clear message to those trying to pursue nuclear weapons programs.
"I think today is a day that the world is honoring the commitment of Dr. ElBaradei and the IAEA to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at a briefing.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday congratulated the IAEA and ElBaradei for the award.
"This prize comes in recognition of their invaluable work to ensure the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear science and technology. Through its activities, the IAEA makes an important contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security," said Barroso in a statement.
On the same day, Javier Solana, European Union's external affairs and security chief, also congratulated the IAEA and ElBaradei.
"This is a just reward for a sustained effort over many years to promote and safeguard the peaceful use of nuclear energy and is a recognition of the key role played by the agency in fostering greater peace and stability among nations," he said.
Russia on Friday hailed the IAEA and ElBaradei for their contributions to nuclear non-proliferation.
Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko described ElBaradei as "a man of peace," saying Russia has always supported and will continue to support the efforts of the man who stands outside of politics and handles issues in the interests of the world community.
South African President Thabo Mbeki also offered congratulations, saying the IAEA had performed valuable tasks central to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
"The award is a personal tribute to your integrity and professionalism as head of the Agency and a well deserved recognition of the impartial and authoritative role of the IAEA," Mbeki told ElBaradei.
ElBaradei was first appointed to be chief of the Vienna-based IAEA in 1997, reappointed in 2001, and won a third term earlier this year.
During his terms, ElBaradei was known for his preference of peaceful means to disarm countries with nuclear ambitions.
The IAEA and its chief were honored "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," said the Nobel Prize Committee.
ElBaradei himself called the prize a much-needed "shot in the arm."
"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," he said.