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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Nobel's regrets on Peres award
Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994
Fellow Nobel laureates: Rabin, Arafat and Peres
Members of the Norwegian committee that awards the annual Nobel Peace Prize have launched an unprecedented verbal assault on Israeli Foreign Minister and Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres.

Mr Peres accepted the peace prize jointly with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israel's late prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, in 1994.

Yes, I wish it was possible that we could recall the prize

Nobel committee member Hanna Kvanmo
In an interview with a Norwegian newspaper, committee members said they regretted that Mr Peres' prize could not be recalled because, as a member of the Israeli cabinet, he had not acted to prevent Israel's re-occupation of Palestinian territory.

One member said Mr Peres had not lived up to the ideals he expressed when he accepted the prize.

"What is happening today in Palestine is grotesque and unbelievable," said Hanna Kvanmo.

"Peres is responsible, as part of the government. He has expressed his agreement with what [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon is doing," she said.

Peres and Arafat
If Arafat were killed by Israel, Peres could "share in the blame"

"If he had not agreed with Sharon, then he would have withdrawn from the government."

Oslo Bishop Gunnar Stalsett, a committee member for the past eight years, describes as "absurd" what he sees as the involvement of a Nobel laureate in human rights abuses.

Other committee members argue that the Israeli government's actions in general and Mr Peres' involvement in particular are threatening to bring the prize into disrepute.

Ms Kvanmo said however that "at the time, it was a correct decision" to honour Peres.

"He was the one of the three that really deserved the prize, because he took the initiative to the talks that led to the Oslo accords," she said.

Committee chairman Geir Lundestad voiced the concern of several members that if Mr Arafat were to be killed as a result of Israeli actions, one Nobel laureate might in effect be said to have killed the other.

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