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International Atomic Energy Agency

ElBaradei Addresses UN on Iraq

Nobel Prize

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Mohamed ElBaradei
Mohamed ElBaradei
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Mohamed ElBaradei Biography

Nobel Prize for Peace

Mohamed ElBaradei Date of birth: June 17, 1942

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  Mohamed ElBaradei

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Mohamed ElBaradei was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. His attorney father, who headed the Egyptian Bar Association, often found himself at odds with the dictatorial regime of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Following in his father's footsteps, young ElBaradei earned his law degree at the University of Cairo in 1962.

He joined Egypt's diplomatic service in 1964, and was assigned to his country's United Nations missions in New York and Geneva. He was placed in charge of political and legal matters and gained his first experience in arms control issues. While serving with Egypt's UN mission, ElBaradei undertook studies at New York University School of Law, receiving a doctorate in International Law in 1974. He credits his years in New York City with broadening his worldview, teaching him to see the world in terms more global than nationalistic.

After completing his doctorate, he was appointed Special Assistant to the Foreign Minister of Egypt, a position he held until 1978. President Nasser's successor, Anwar al-Sadat, broke the close ties to the Soviet Union that Nasser had cultivated. Instead, Sadat sought closer ties with the West and peace with Israel. ElBaradei served on the Egyptian negotiating team at the historic Camp David peace talks that led to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

Mohamed ElBaradei Biography Photo
ElBaradei left the Egyptian diplomatic service in 1980 to work directly for the United Nations. He served first as a senior fellow in charge of the International Law Program at the UN Institute for Training and Research. From 1981 to 1987 he was also an Adjunct Professor of International Law at New York University. He was first assigned to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1984, serving as a senior staff member of the IAEA Secretariat, as the agency's Legal Adviser and later as Assistant Director General for External Relations.

In the wake of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, ElBaradei was sent to Iraq to uproot the country's nuclear weapons program. His team blew up laboratories and pulverized equipment. In 1997, ElBaradei was chosen to succeed Hans Blix as Director General of the IAEA. The following year, Saddam Hussein expelled the weapons inspectors from his country. By then, ElBaradei was convinced they had destroyed Iraq's entire nuclear weapons program, although the status of chemical and biological weapons remained more mysterious.

As Director General of IAEA, ElBaradei found himself embroiled in a second confrontation with Iraq. After terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the United States insisted that Iraq comply with the UN weapons inspection regime. When IAEA inspectors returned to Iraq in 2002, they found no trace of the previous nuclear program. In a State of the Union address, U.S. President Bush asserted that Iraq was buying uranium in Africa. Several weeks elapsed before the U.S. presented the IAEA with a document, obtained in Italy, that purported to validate the allegation. IAEA investigators quickly identified the document as a forgery. ElBaradei dismissed the evidence before the UN Security Council.

Mohamed ElBaradei Biography Photo
Subsequent developments have suggested that ElBaradei's evaluation of Iraq's nuclear program was correct. ElBaradei recalled an appropriate proverb, "It's dangerous to be proved wrong, but sometimes it's even more dangerous to be proved right in the end." It was rumored that the Bush administration opposed his reappointment to the IAEA. The Washington Post reported that his phone in Vienna was bugged by the CIA.

In 2005, ElBaradei and the agency he heads were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts "to prevent nuclear energy for being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way."

Dr. ElBaradei served three terms as the Director General of the IAEA. As Director, ElBaradei was tasked with helping all member states of the UN to enjoy the benefits of progress in science and technology, while applying strict safeguards to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The agency's first priority is to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, by discouraging new nations from acquiring the weapons, while holding existing nuclear powers to their commitments to reduce their arsenals. During his time at the IAEA, ElBaradei called for a five-year world-wide moratorium on plans for new uranium enrichment and fission facilities, and pressed the existing nuclear powers to renounce their weapons for good. ElBaradei also made a priority of promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear power, striving to make radiation therapy available in less-developed countries for the treatment of diseases such as cancer and malaria.

Mohamed ElBaradei Biography Photo
Mohamed ElBaradei is married to Aida Elkachef, an early childhood teacher. While he worked for the IAEA, they made their home in Vienna, Austria. They have two grown children who live and work in London, England. After 12 years as Director, Mohamed ElBaradei retired from IAEA, maintain homes in both Cairo and Vienna. In 2010, he founded the National Association for Change, a non-partisan group that works for democratic reforms of Egypt's electoral. ElBaradei himself has been widely seen as a potential presidential candidate. He attracted support from a broad spectrum of political parties and factions, but has indicated that he would not run for President of Egypt unless specific reforms were made to guarantee free elections. When the government of President Hosni Mubarak refused to negotiate with reform advocates, ElBaradei returned to self-imposed exile in Vienna.

In 2011, a wave of massive street demonstrations swept Egypt's cities, calling for free elections and an end to the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. ElBaradei traveled to Cairo once more to join the demonstrators' calls for democratic reform. After he and his fellow demonstrators were rebuffed with tear gas and water cannons, ElBaradei was not seen in public for several days. It was reported that he had been placed under house arrest, but he soon reappeared, defying a government curfew, and emerged as a leader of the democratic opposition. Mubarak resigned in February 2011 year and was later sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the killing of peaceful protesters.

Mohamed ElBaradei Biography Photo
Although Mohamed ElBaradei was urged by many to run for President of Egypt, he declined to compete in the 2012 presidential election. The winner in that contest, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, antagonized large sections of Egyptian society. Following renewed street demonstrations, and violent clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi factions, the Egyptian military removed Morsi from office in July 2013. Adly Mansour, the chief of the country's constitutional court, assumed the role of interim president until new elections could be held. Egyptian state media reported that Interim President Mansour had appointed ElBaradei to serve as prime minister, but the appointment was retracted, after Islamist members of the ruling coalition threatened to withdraw their support for Mansour. Instead, Mohamed ElBaradei was chosen to serve as Interim Vice President, with special responsibility for foreign policy. He was sworn into office on July 14, 2013. In office, ElBaradei attempted to broker a resolution to the conflict between Islamist supporters of former President Morsi and hardliners in the new government. When the government employed lethal force to disperse pro-Morsi demonstrators in Cairo, ElBaradei resigned in protest, exactly one month after taking office.

This page last revised on Aug 21, 2013 10:29 EDT
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