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Tehran offers to 'protect' Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi (centre) outside the Human Rights Defenders Centre in Tehran (21 December 2008)
Demonstrators have picketed Ms Ebadi over Israel's Gaza operation

Iran says it is prepared to provide security for Nobel Peace Prize-winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi, amid widespread international concern for her safety.

Security would be provided if Ms Ebadi requested it, said foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had urged Iran to keep Ms Ebadi from harm.

His call came after demonstrations were held outside her office and authorities raided both the office and the human rights centre she founded.

Demonstrators accused her of not condemning Israel's actions in Gaza and, in particular, their effects on children.

Officials removed computers and documents in last Monday's raid on Ms Ebadi's private office in Tehran.

In December the Iranian authorities closed the Tehran office of the Human Rights Defenders Centre, headed by Ms Ebadi, saying it had operated for eight years without permission.

In 2003 Ms Ebadi, a 61-year-old lawyer and human rights activist, became the first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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