Iran blocks UK website in new diplomatic spat

December 22, 2011 - 7:56 AM

LONDON (AP) — Iran has blocked access to a British government website aimed at Iranian audiences in a new act of aggression against the U.K., Britain's Foreign Secretary said Thursday.

William Hague claimed that the website — the online presence of Britain's now shuttered embassy in Tehran — had been deliberately targeted by the Iranian regime.

The decision to disrupt access to the site follows the violent storming of Britain's embassy by demonstrators last month, when a mob trashed rooms, damaged furniture, scrawled graffiti and tore up a portrait of Queen Victoria, as staff took shelter.

Hague pulled British diplomats out of Iran for their own safety and made the rare decision to expel all Iranian diplomats from U.K. soil.

The British website contained information for Iranian hoping to visit Britain and details on U.K. government policies. Those trying to access the pages are now directed to a list of Iranian government approved websites, including Iran's English-language Press TV.

"This action is counterproductive and ill-judged. It will confirm to the Iranian people that their government is determined to block their access to information, and to conceal from them the international community's legitimate concerns about Iran's policies and behavior. It will also make it harder for Iranian nationals to access information about visiting the U.K.," Hague said.

He said the action provided further proof of "the Iranian government's dire record on freedom of speech and human rights in general."

Earlier this month, a group of leading international broadcasters accused Iran of increasing its intimidation of foreign media and accelerating efforts to jam satellite broadcasts in Farsi from reaching Iranian audiences.

Following a meeting of senior media executives in London, Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Germany's Deutsche Welle, France's AEF and Radio Netherlands Worldwide issued a joint statement calling for an end to attempts to block independent media.