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Iranian President Warns Nobel Laureate Not to 'Misuse' New Status - 2003-10-14

Iran's president has warned Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi to consider Iranian interests as she attracts increased international attention. Ms. Ebadi's is returning to Iran for the first time since the prize was announced last week.

Iranian President Mohammed Khatami called for Ms. Ebadi to, in his words, pay attention to the interests of Islam and of Iran. He said her new status should not be misused or exploited.

Speaking to reporters at Iran's parliament, Mr. Khatami first welcomed the selection of an Iranian for the Nobel Peace Prize, but then he said the Peace Prize is not very important compared to the Nobel awards for scientific achievement. When asked why he had not issued a formal statement reacting to last week's announcement, President Khatami dismissed the question.

The president's pro-reform government officially extended only lukewarm congratulations to Ms Ebadi, a human rights lawyer and advocate of women's rights. The hardline Iranian press has ignored or criticized her selection, and her decision not to wear a headscarf at a news conference in Paris.

Since winning the prize on Friday, Ms. Ebadi has criticized what she says is the slow pace of reforms in Iran, and has called for release of political prisoners there.