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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arafat, Rabin, Peres Win Divisive Nobel

OSLO -- PLO leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres shared the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for signing last year's peace accord, even as the Mideast was ensnarled in a new crisis.


The committee hailed the men's "courage" despite their controversial pasts. But one committee member, outraged that Arafat was included, immediately submitted his resignation, in one of the ugliest disputes over the prize in years.


The choice has been highly controversial, especially following the kidnapping this week of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian extremists. Rabin has demanded Arafat rein in the extremists, throwing the peace process into its worst crisis since the treaty was signed last year.


The kidnapping "is deeply tragic and fills us with sadness and anxiety," said Francis Sejersted, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize award committee. "The situation has been created by people who wish to break off the peace process, which this year's peace prize winners have initiated."


Wary of stepping on toes, Sejersted announced the names of Arafat, Peres and Rabin in alphabetical order to a packed news conference.


"The award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1994 to Arafat, Peres and Rabin is intended ... to honor a political act which called for great courage on both sides, and which has opened up opportunities for a new development toward fraternity in the Middle East," he said. "By concluding the Oslo accords and subsequently following up on them, Arafat, Peres and Rabin have made substantial contributions to a historic process through which peace and cooperation can replace war and hate," Sejersted said, referring to the secret talks that came to be called the "Norway Channel."


"It is the committee's hope that the award will serve as an encouragement to all the Israelis and Palestinians who are endeavoring to establish lasting peace in the region," he said.


Rabin, reacting to the prize in a statement issued by his spokesman, said the "work is not yet finished, and the prize is for the future more than it is a reward for the efforts of peace that have been made up until now."


Arafat said he was honored but that the award belonged to the Palestinian people.


"The prize is not for me," he said during a trip to Alexandria, Egypt. "It is for my people who suffered a lot, people who have been able to achieve the peace of the brave, for our martyrs, for our prisoners, for our children, for the future."


The prize carries an award of 7 million kronors ($933,000).


Kare Kristiansen, a member of the prize committee, said later in a news conference that he submitted his resignation Friday because he believed Arafat's background in terrorism made him "unworthy."


"During the debates on the award of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, the committee ended up with a split decision," Kristiansen said. "I out of respect for the prize and for my own deep-rooted conviction could not accept (Arafat) as worthy of the prize."