OVIEDO, Spain (AP) _ Crown Prince Felipe presented Spain's top cultural prize to representatives of the world's Sephardic Jews on Thursday, symbolically opening the country to descendants of people forced into exile in 1492.

Professor Solomon Gaon of New York's Yeshiva University accepted the Prince of Asturias prize for harmony on behalf of the international Sephardic community. The prize was one of eight awarded by the Spanish heir.

''In the spirit of harmony of today's Spain and as an heir of those who signed the expulsion decree 500 years ago, I welcome you with open arms and great emotion,'' the prince said.

The 10th annual edition of the prize, named after the title held by the 22- year-old Felipe, carries a cash award of $50,000 and a statuette designed by the late Spanish artist Joan Miro.

Gaon choked back tears as he read his acceptance speech in Ladino, a dialect of medieval Spanish that is still spoken by some Jews five centuries after they were expelled from Spain by a royal edict.

''In this world full of struggle and conflict, we hope this award brings a message of harmony,'' he said.

Representatives of Sephardic communities in Spain, Latin America, Greece, Turkey, Israel and Morocco also received certificates from the prince.

Felipe called the Sephardic Jews ''a beloved member of the great Hispanic family'' and praised them for preserving their Spanish language and culture over five centuries.

German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher received the prize for international cooperation for his work to construct a united Europe, help slow the arms race and defend human rights.

Genscher reiterated Germany's support of a European political and monetary unity that extends beyond the borders of the 12-member European Economic Community to the recently liberated countries to the east.

''Now that the political and ideological walls have come down, we need to eliminate the economic and social walls that still divide East from West,'' he said.

Other recipients included Venezuelan novelist Arturo Uslar Pietri, who received the prize for letters; Central American University of El Salvador, for communication and humanities; and Honduran pharmacologist scientist Salvador Moncada for scientific research.

The arts prize went to Spanish painter Antoni Tapies, while motorcycle racer Alfonso ''Sito'' Pons took home the sports prize. Spaniard Santiago Grisolia shared the research prize and Rodrigo Uria won in the social sciences category.