Three old Mid-East foes share Nobel Peace Prize

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The Independent Online
THREE OLD enemies shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize yesterday when a divided Nobel committee awarded the honour to the Palestine Liberation Organisation leader, Yasser Arafat; the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Israel's Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres.

The lustre of the award was badly tarnished by the death of the abducted Israeli soldier, during a raid in which an Israeli rescuer and three kidnappers were also killed. A member of the Norwegian prize committee, who believed Mr Arafat's violent past made him unworthy of the prize, resigned in protest against the award.

There were other voices of dissent, but by and large it was seen by many on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a just reward for the political risks the three men have taken. For Mr Arafat, the award marked his transformation from revolutionary to would-be statesman.

'This prize is not for me but for our people, who have suffered so much and for our martyrs,' he said.

To Mr Rabin, the Nobel Prize comes laden with ambiguity and not a little bitterness. Echoing Mr Arafat, he said: 'This prize is for the whole nation, for all the citizens of the state of Israel, for the bereaved families, the disabled and all the hundreds of thousands who fought in Israel's wars.'

As Israel's chief of staff in the 1967 Six-Day War, Mr Rabin directed battles against the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. As defence minister in the 1980s he ordered soldiers to suppress the Palestinian intifada, or uprising. But he also understood Israel's weakened strategic position at the end of the Cold War and, with a wafer-thin majority in the Knesset, he led Israel into its reconciliation with the Palestinians.

His fellow laureate, Mr Peres, was apparently taken by surprise. Press leaks earlier this week only mentioned Mr Arafat and Mr Rabin as the likely winners.

It was, however, Mr Peres who worked ceaselessly to convince Mr Rabin that the moment had come to deal, and who urged on the secret peace talks in Norway that led to the peace accord.

It was the first time in the 93-year history of the prize that it was shared by more than two candidates. It was also the first time since 1973 - when two committee members resigned after the award was given to then US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, and North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho - that a member of the prize committee stepped down in protest.

Kaare Kristiansen, who considers Mr Arafat a former terrorist, said he quit because he could not accept the choice of the PLO leader.

CAIRO - Naguib Mahfouz, the only Arab winner of the Nobel literature prize, was stabbed and wounded yesterday as he returned home, Reuter reports. Neighbours said Mahfouz, 83, was approached by a group of men who looked as if they wanted to greet him but one stabbed him in the neck. He was taken to hospital.

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