Telephone interview with Mohamed ElBaradei, by freelance journalist Marika Griehsel, after the announcement of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, 7 October 2005.
– Mr ElBaradei.
– Yes, hello, Marika. How are you?
– Thank you very much, thank you very much; I appreciate that.
– We’re happy that we will be able to speak to you for a few minutes.
– Sure. Absolutely.
– What was you first thought when you heard about the award?
– Well, absolutely overwhelmed and proud at the same time. I mean, humbled. That was actually the first thing: My God, that’s …
– You had no idea that it would come, in a way?
– I had no idea. You know, I was reading the media, but in fact I knew about it from watching CNN, because the Committee could not get in touch with me for whatever … Anyway, I was at home and they called the office. So I did not know and in fact I know they usually call before, and the fact that they didn’t call – I thought that we did not get it this year again.
– So it was an absolutely delightful surprise; I was just hugging my wife in front of the television.
– Great! And what is the feeling among the staff?
– Well, I think the staff are bursting with pride. In a way it just gives recognition to the hard work they do, night and day – in the field, working with governments, against governments, trying to control nuclear material, possible nuclear terrorism – in the four corners of the globe. So I think it … And I’m very gratified that the Prize recognises, not just me, but equally every member of the staff. And that’s absolutely the right way to go, I think, in my view. Because, without the staff, we would not have been where we are.
– How do you think the organisation and you in person will be able to use the award in furthering the IAEA’s work?
– Well, I think it will absolutely give us the encouragement, the support, particularly public support, Marika, and the added recognition, or status if you like, to go through the difficult road we are travelling – which is to make sure that nuclear weapons would not proliferate, that we control the already existing 50,000 warheads and hopefully move towards nuclear disarmament, that we make sure that nuclear terrorists will not acquire nuclear material … So it has very much strengthened my resolve – that I now know that the public at large are supporting our mission, recognising the importance of the mission, and it’s in fact an added responsibility on my shoulders to deliver and to meet the expectations of the Nobel Committee.
– Yes. Your predecessor, Hans Blix, in which way do you think he has influenced your work and the organisation’s work?
– Well, Hans has been here for sixteen years; he has contributed a lot to the agency; and, of course, the agency is not just the last eight years that I’ve been here, the agency has been around since 1957. So, of course, it’s work in progress, if you like, you know. Challenges have been different: now, of course, we are facing unprecedented challenges in the last few years, since Iraq, the Iraq ’91 war; and there’s been no let-go since that time. After Iraq there was Korea, there was Libya, there was Iran, 9/11 … And we had to hit the ground running with regard to many of these issues. And we still have a very … a pretty difficult, challenging task ahead of us. So this is not just recognition of achievement. To me, I read that to mean: “Keep doing what you are doing, and more.” And that’s the message I get from this Prize today.
– What would you say is … If you could single out one issue, what is the most pressing issue that you have to deal with right now or in the nearest future?
– Well, I think the most single important issue today is to make sure that nuclear weapons will not proliferate beyond the eight, or nine, countries that already have nuclear weapons; and absolutely make sure that none of these nuclear weapons or this nuclear material will fall into the hands of any extremist or terrorist group, because if they got hold of this material, they would use it. That would be the beginning of the end for civilisation as we know it.
– You have been described as a person who speaks your mind; and you said the Prize will mean even more responsibility for you. Will you continue to speak your mind on these issues?
– Absolutely. I mean, I think that … this is to me the best part of the Prize, frankly; it strengthens my resolve to speak without fear, to speak … to use the power, as, you know, I have been having a difficult time when you have to look a government in the face and tell them, “You are not telling us the truth,” or “You need to comply with your commitment,” and working … We are in a very unique position at IAEA, because we sit on judgement of governments, in judging their compliance. And that puts a lot of responsibility on our shoulder. We have to be a hundred percent impartial. But we also have … Our strength lies, in fact, in our integrity and our impartiality. And I think this is a wonderful addition to my resolve to continue to speak my mind, because I know I have no hidden agenda other than to see our world a safer world. And I see that we have lots of challenges facing us in every respect, from interest wars, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, poverty, infectious diseases, environmental degradation, in all this we can only move forward, if we work in a multilateral setting; and that also is another dimension of this – that is recognises the importance of multilateralism. As the citation says, “broadest international co-operation”. We can only win together or lose together, Marika. I think that’s something I have been saying for quite a while and you probably will hear me say more of that, as we go forward.
– Yes. One of your statements has been, as you say: “A global approach is the only approach forward for us.”
– “And we will continue to send that message across.”
– Absolutely, absolutely. I think … The unity of the human race, I think, is something I want very much to emphasise, that if we are to survive … If we want to survive, we need … Just a second, Marika. Marika, I have Condoleezza Rice on the telephone. Could I call you back in a couple of minutes?
– Yes. Or if you could just follow that sentence to the end; then I’ll say goodbye …
– Okay. If we are going to survive, we need to put the emphasis on what unites us together and not what separates us. It is not the difference in colour or creed or border, or what have you; it’s a fact that you are part of the human race, and the more we are able to understand the affinity we have with it, with each other, the more we can have, achieve, a lasting peace, durable peace, I believe.
– Thank you so much.
– Thank you very much.
– And have a very, very nice day.
– Thank you very much.
– Thank you. Goodbye.
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