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Washington: Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, said it was an "incredible honour" to receive Spain's 2015 Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, a prize that is at the "nucleus" of its existence.

It also said that it would use the award to explore new opportunities regarding free access to information in Spanish.

"Cooperation is the nucleus of what we are," Katherine Maher, the head of communications for the Wikimedia Foundation, which manages the San Francisco-based Wikipedia, said yesterday

Maher said that it was "a complete surprise" to receive word of the award acknowledging "the important example of international, democratic, open and participative cooperation" represented by the digital encyclopedia, which contains more than 37 million articles written in 288 languages by volunteers all over the world.

"We're really thrilled by this incredible recognition," said Maher.

Wikipedia now joins organisations such as the Fulbright Foundation, which have received the award in the past.

According to figures provided by Wikimedia, the Spanish edition of Wikipedia is one of the largest, with almost 1.2 million articles, and in May its pages received more than 1.4 billion visits.

"The work of our community (of volunteers) in Spanish is extraordinary," said Maher, noting that the prize launches a "new task", that of beginning a conversation "about what the opportunities are" and "what we can do with this fabulous and generous recognition".

Established in 1981 as the Prince of Asturias prizes and presented in eight categories, the awards are regarded as the Ibero-American world's equivalent of the Nobels.

Along with 50,000 Euros (about $57,000) and a statuette based on a sculpture by Joan Miro, each winner receives a diploma and an insignia bearing the Princess of Asturias Foundation's coat of arms.

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