The United Nations and its Secretary General Kofi Annan have been named co-winners of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. The world body and its chief were cited for their work toward a better-organized and more peaceful world.

Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Gunnar Berge praised the 63-year old U.N. Secretary General and the organization he heads for leadership in the campaign for human rights, and against AIDS and terrorism.

He said Mr. Annan has breathed new life into the world body, while at the same time using its modest resources more efficiently.

Mr. Berge noted that among the Secretary General's most important accomplishments has been holding member nations accountable for their actions. "In an organization that can hardly become more than its members permit, he has made clear that sovereignty cannot be a shield behind which member states conceal their violations," Mr Berge said.

Mr. Berge says the Norwegian Nobel Committee wanted to use the peace prize to underscore its faith in the United Nations as a tool for strengthening organized cooperation between nations.

"The U.N. has in its history achieved many successes, and suffered many setbacks," he says. "Through this first Peace Prize to the U.N. as such, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes in its centenary year to proclaim that the only negotiable route to global peace and cooperation goes by way of the United Nations," he says.

The Nobel Peace prize carries with it a cash award of nearly $1 million, which will be shared equally by the world body and the secretary-general. The United Nations had never before won a Nobel prize, though several of its agencies and people connected with it have.

Mr. Annan was born in 1938 in Ghana and has spent much of his career at the United Nations. He is the first Secretary General to be elected from within the ranks of the organization.

Last year's winner was South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who was cited for his efforts at reconciliation with North Korea.

The Nobel prizes will be handed out December 10, the death anniversary of Swedish inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel. This year, to mark the 100th year of the Nobel prizes, all living past winners have been invited to participate in special ceremonies. Thirty-four of the 39 living Nobel peace laureates have indicated they will attend.