IRAN: Facebook unblocked after hoopla over ban

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Iran unblocked the popular Facebook social networking website just days after it was banned, an Iranian news agency is reporting.

A report published today on the website of the Iranian Labor News Agency, or ILNA, said Facebook was now accessible for ordinary Web surfers.


The rescinding of the ban came a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied he was behind the decision to block the site, which has been used by his challengers to rally supporters for upcoming elections.

Reformist challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister, had become especially adept at using Facebook to generate buzz for his campaign.

According to the tersely worded ILNA report, the site has been blocked and unblocked numerous times over the last few days.

A committee comprising representatives of the Interior Ministry, intelligence services, judiciary branch and parliament decides on which sites are to be blocked, according to ILNA.

More than a third of Iranians use the Internet, according to the Internet World Stats market research site.

Despite strict controls, the Internet is quickly becoming an essential tool in Iranian politics, with politicians like Mehdi Karroubi campaigning on the Web and contender Mousavi employing Twitter and even launching his own YouTube channel.

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Detail from the website of Iranian presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi. Credit: Borzou Daragahi / Los Angeles Times