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Iran Blocks U.S. 'Virtual Embassy'

A screen shot of the "virtual embassy" of the United States in Iran

A screen shot of the "virtual embassy" of the United States in Iran

Iranian Internet users say the country's authorities have blocked a web-based U.S. "embassy" to Iran less than a day after it went online.

The English- and Persian-language website, designed by Washington as a "virtual embassy," had been briefly available to Iranian Internet users after it was launched on December 6.

It has been inaccessible since the following day. Instead, the Internet address displayed a message saying access was "not possible."

The United States said it wanted to use the "virtual embassy" to reach out to Iranians, despite the absence of official ties.

The White House responded to Tehran blocking the site by saying in a statement that "the Iranian government has once again demonstrated its commitment to build an electronic curtain of surveillance and censorship" around the Iranian people.

On December 8, Interior Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in remarks broadcast on state television that the U.S. "virtual initiative" will neither "compensate for [American] mistakes, nor relay the U.S. message to the Iranian people."

Separately, five international broadcasters -- Voice Of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Deutsche Welle of Germany, France's AEF, and Radio Netherlands Worldwide -- have issued a joint statement accusing Iran of increasing its intimidation of foreign media and accelerating efforts to disrupt satellite broadcasts in Farsi from reaching Iranian audiences. The statement was issued after a meeting of senior executives of the broadcasters in London.

The condemnation comes as the U.S.-based independent media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in a new report decried global jailings of reporters and singled Iran out as the "worst" offender.

The United States closed its embassy in Tehran and broke off diplomatic relations in 1979 after Islamist militants and students seized 52 Americans and held them hostage for 444 days at the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Iranian capital.

compiled from agency and RFE/RL reports

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