UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. — Egyptian state television interrupted a soap opera to announce that the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to Mohamed ElBaradei. ElBaradei, a 63-year-old Egyptian lawyer and diplomat, had headed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 1997. IAEA shared the prize, which totaled $1.3 million, with ElBaradei.

For many, the award spotlighted the ironies of diplomacy, the duplicities of the Bush administration in the lead-up to the Iraq War and the failures of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament negotiations.

On March 7, 2003, ElBaradei reported to the U.N. Security Council that IAEA inspectors had found “no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq.”

Inspection sites included those that Secretary of State Colin Powell had alleged concealed nuclear weapons activities.

The United States contended that time had run out, and with the United Kingdom, invaded Iraq on March 19. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Nevertheless, the United States campaigned vigorously this year against a third term for ElBaradei as IAEA director general. The campaign received little support, and ElBaradei was reappointed.

The Nobel citation said the work of the IAEA was invaluable “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.”

Nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament have sustained a number of recent setbacks.

Last May, the United States blocked discussion of substantive issues at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. The three-week conference was a complete waste of preparations, time and funds.

In September, the highly touted U.N. “summit,” attended by 149 heads of state, among them President George W. Bush, ignored arms issues and dropped all references to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the need for disarmament by the nuclear weapons powers.

The summit was torpedoed not only by the United States but by other Western powers that have no intention of supplying the political will, funds, technology, expertise, and skills needed to meet the U.N. Millennium Goals by 2015. Those goals include cutting in half the number of people suffering hunger and living in extreme poverty, providing universal primary education, and reducing under-five child mortality by three-fourths.

Another conference in September, aimed at putting into effect the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), went nowhere. The CTBT, ratified by 125 countries, lists 44 countries whose ratification is essential for the treaty’s operation. Of those, 11 nations have still not ratified including China, the United States, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran and Israel.

Donald Paneth is The Indypendent’s U.N. correspondent. He has covered the United Nations since 1946.