OSLO, Norway (AP) _ The United Nations and Secretary-General Kofi Annan won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their efforts to achieve a ``more peaceful world.''
Annan, who has devoted almost his entire working life to the world body, was lauded for ``bringing new life to the organization,'' that has often taken great risks in the promotion of human rights and conflict resolution since the end of World War II.
Annan, who was woken shortly after 5 a.m. in New York with the news, said he was humbled and challenged. ``It honors the U.N. but also challenges us to do more and do better, not to rest on our laurels,'' he said.
The prize winners were decided following the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States and the citation specifically noted that Annan ``has risen to such new challenges as HIV/AIDS and international terrorism, and brought about more efficient utilization of the U.N.'s modest resources.''
The United Nations was cited for its work ``for a better organized and more peaceful world.''
Geir Lundestad, the committee's secretary, noted that the winner was picked Sept. 28 _ 17 days after the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and almost a week into the U.S. military response in Afghanistan. ``Of course, the committee was very aware of that event,'' he said.
Nobel committee chairman Gunnar Berge said the United Nations and Annan ``would have been relevant candidates no matter what but the recent events make them more relevant,'' he said.
Annan has responded to the terror attacks by trying to galvanize an international campaign under the U.N. umbrella to defeat terrorism. On Thursday, President Bush suggested that the United Nations help rebuild Afghanistan with help from the United States.
Annan said Friday that ``depending on what happens in Afghanistan, the U.N. may have an important role there to play. But that will also depend on the member states in terms of the kind of mandate we are given and the resources and support that comes with it.''
Annan, born in 1938 in Ghana, became U.N. secretary-general in 1997. He has been praised for his character, moral leadership, his focus on conflicts in Africa and the Middle East and his efforts to combat AIDS.
He joined the United Nations in 1962 as an administrator with the World Health Organization in Geneva. His U.N. career has been incredibly varied with posts in Africa and Europe in almost every area of the organization, from budget management to the head of U.N. peacekeeping.
He was the first leader to be elected from the ranks of United Nations staff, tapped for the top job after the United States lobbied to prevent his predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, from taking a second term.
In an unprecedented vote of confidence, Annan was unanimously reappointed to a second five-year term by the 189 U.N. member states in June, six months before his first term expires on Dec. 31.
Annan's wife, Nane, told AP she was ``bubbling over with happiness for my husband and for everyone working at the U.N.''
U.N. agencies and people connected to it repeatedly have won the prize, but it had never gone to the world body itself.
U.N. spokeswoman Marie Heuze said in Geneva that the award was particularly symbolic because it marked the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize and came at a time when the United Nations is having to work very hard to ensure the security of its staff.
Nearly 200 U.N. humanitarian workers have been killed in the past decade and 1,650 U.N. peacekeepers from 85 countries have died in the line of duty since 1948. Heuze said the prize was an ``honor of all those who have been killed for the objectives and values of the U.N.''
The peace prize committee said it wanted to mark its centennial this year by proclaiming that ``the only negotiable route to global peace and cooperation goes by way of the United Nations.''
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other world leaders were quick to offered their congratulations.
``No one and no organization is more deserving of this prestigious award. And no better time for it to be announced, as we struggle to bring to justice those who struck at the heart of the free world just blocks away from the U.N. headquarters in New York,'' Blair said in a statement.
The Nobel committee said the United Nations and Annan would share the $943,000 award in equal parts.
Founded in 1945 by 51 nations, the United Nations has almost quadrupled in membership, is richer and more diverse. It now employs about 52,100 people at U.N. headquarters in New York and 29 other organizations scattered around the globe.
Created in the aftermath of World War II as a shell-shocked world's hope for peace, it remains the unique global gathering place for nations rich and poor, large and small to try to settle international problems.
Last year, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung won the peace prize for his reconciliation efforts with North Korea. No such peace efforts stood out in media speculation this year.
Thirty-four past laureates were expected in Oslo for centennial celebrations leading up to the Dec. 10 awards ceremony. Similar celebrations are planned in Stockholm, Sweden, where the other Nobel Prizes are awarded.
The prizes were created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in his will and are always presented on the anniversary of his death in 1896.
The first Nobel Peace Prize, in 1901, honored Jean Henri Dunant, the Swiss founder of the Red Cross.
This year's Nobels started Monday with the naming of medicine prize winners, American Leland H. Hartwell and Britons Tim Hunt and Paul Nurse, for work on cell development that could lead to new cancer treatments.
The physics award went Tuesday to German scientist Wolfgang Ketterle and Americans Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman for creating a new state of matter, an ultra-cold gas known as Bose-Einstein condensate.
On Wednesday, the economics prize went to Americans George A. Akerlof, A. Michael Spence and Joseph E. Stiglitz for developing ways to measure the power of information in a wide range of deals and investments. On the same day, Americans K. Barry Sharpless and William S. Knowles shared the chemistry prize with Ryoji Noyori of Japan for showing how to better control chemical reactions used in producing medicines.
V.S. Naipaul won the literature prize Thursday for his ``incorruptible scrutiny'' of postcolonial society and his critical assessments of Muslim fundamentalism.