Norwegian Newspaper Says Arafat, Rabin Will Win Nobel Peace Prize
OSLO, Norway (AP) _ After a contentious meeting, the Nobel Peace Prize committee has decided to give this year’s award to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat, a Norwegian newspaper reported today.
The report in the Oslo daily Aftenposten preceded Friday’s formal announcement of the $930,000 award.
Arafat and Rabin gave a historic impetus to Middle East peace with a handshake on the White House lawn on Sept 13, 1993, that ended the taboo on formal recognition between Israel and Palestinians. They signed a declaration of principles on limited Palestinian self-rule as a first step toward an overall peace settlement between the two long-time enemies.
Aftenposten, quoting unidentified sources, said the Nobel committee had trouble deciding last Friday who should be honored for achieving last year’s historic Middle East peace breakthrough.
The paper said the five-member committee’s decision to include Arafat so angered one member, Kare Kristiansen, that he has threatened to resign. A long-time supporter of Israel, he opposed giving the prize to Arafat because he still considers the PLO chairman a terrorist.
Kristiansen did not confirm or deny the report. When told during an interview early today with Israeli radio that some Israelis would appreciate his stand, Kristiansen answered: ″Thank you very much.″
The chairman of the peace prize committee, Francis Sejersted, refused comment today and said any word on the winners must wait until Friday, the Norwegian news agency NTB said.
Kristiansen would be the first committee member to end his term early in protest.
Aftenposten said the committee could still take the unprecedented step of changing its decision and an unscheduled meeting could be called before Friday’s announcement in an attempt to settle the dispute.
In Jerusalem, Rabin’s spokesman Linda Shimon said the Israeli leader would not comment until the prize is announced. Arafat’s spokesman in Gaza City, Nabil Abu Irdeineh, said Arafat also declined to comment.
Today’s report highlighted a dispute on whether the prize, the most coveted of the six Nobel awards being given this month, should be shared equally among both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Under current Nobel statutes, there should not be more than three winners.
But many more people than that were involved in secret talks that led to the 1993 agreement on limited Palestinian self-rule, and Nobel committee officials have said they’re not certain the rule would be followed again.
Other key players were Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, a founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization who signed the peace accord with Israel last year in Washington.
The committee reportedly had considered avoiding the problem by giving the prize to some of those who did the actual work in last year’s secret Norwegian-mediated talks that led to the agreement.
They include Norwegian peace broker Terje Roed Larsen, Israeli negotiator Uri Savir and a Palestinian negotiator.
It was the committee’s worst dispute since 1973, when two members submitted their resignations after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, then Vietnamese leader. Those two members, however, ended up serving out their terms.
The peace prize committee traditionally is extremely tight-lipped about its choice. But this year’s explosion of early controversy indicated an intense debate behind the scenes.