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ARAFAT, PERES, RABIN ACCEPT PEACE PRIZE AND PROMISE TO PERSIST

SHARE ARAFAT, PERES, RABIN ACCEPT PEACE PRIZE AND PROMISE TO PERSIST

Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin received the Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday and pledged to pursue their mission of healing the anguished Middle East.

"Peace will triumph over all its enemies, because the alternative is grimmer for all of us. And we will prevail," Israeli Prime Minister Rabin said in his acceptance speech in a festive ceremony at Oslo's city hall.But in a fresh reminder of continuing hatred and bitterness, Jewish extremists burned an effigy of Rabin outside city hall and scuffled with an Arab waving a Palestinian flag.

When Rabin, Israeli Foreign Minister Peres and Arafat stepped onto a balcony to wave to hundreds of torch-carrying Norwegians singing "Give peace a chance," the three men were protected by bulletproof glass, a first in Nobel history.

Arafat, the Palestine Liberation Organization leader, wore his traditional keffiyeh and olive-drab uniform. He bowed three times amid thunderous applause after receiving his gold medal and prize certificate.

Arafat, 65, clapped enthusiastically as Peres came forward, followed by Rabin. Arafat and Peres shook hands, but Rabin quickly stepped aside after receiving his prize.

The three men stood for several minutes and proudly displayed the awards for a peace process that started with secret talks in 1993 in Norway itself.

Arafat, the former guerrilla leader, said the award was not granted "to crown an endeavor that we have completed but rather to encourage us to continue a road which we have started."

He urged his Israeli counterparts to "accelerate the process" and begin troop withdrawal from parts of the West Bank as quickly as possible so that Palestinian elections can be held.

"I believe it is fitting that the prize has been awarded to Yasser Arafat," Peres said. "His quitting the path of confrontation in favor of the path of dialogue has opened the way to peace between ourselves and the Palestinian people - a people that we wish all the best in the future."

Peres, 71, still bore three scars on his face from a fall he took Friday evening while walking to his hotel.

"Standing here today, I wish to salute our loved ones - and past foes," Rabin said, speaking last.

Recalling his days as a military commander, Rabin paid tribute to war victims and their families, saying that "this important prize is theirs."

Rabin, 72, scheduled another round of talks with Arafat late Saturday. The timing of the Palestinian elections and the pullout of Israeli troops from Palestinian towns in the West Bank remained two major stumbling blocks in the process towards Palestinian self-rule.

The Nobel laureates were surrounded by dignitaries led by Norway's King Harald V and Queen Sonja and shared a $931,000 cash award.

Outside city hall, helmeted police, with mounted patrolmen in reserve, held back a crowd of at least 200 screaming protesters and Norwegian spectators.

"Shame, shame," one protester shouted through a bullhorn. Another held up a sign that said, "Arafat's peace prize covers his victims with blood."

Four American protesters who burned the effigy of Rabin were arrested for demonstrating without a permit. The four, whose names weren't released, were members of the anti-Arab Koch movement which calls for the ouster of Palestinians from Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Though the award to Arafat, who once led a bloody campaign to destroy Israel, had aroused controversy, the Nobel committee emphasized it was honoring only the three men's efforts leading to the September 1993 peace accord.

The three men met for 90 minutes at Oslo's Grand Hotel after a festive dinner hosted by the Nobel Committee. There was no indication they reached any agreements, although they decided to step up the pace of negotiations and meet repeatedly in the coming weeks.