Virtual Iranian Embassy Shut Down
Iran on Wednesday blocked access to the U.S. "virtual" embassy in Tehran. Washington says the website was intended to set up a channel of communication between the U.S. and Iranian citizens, Iran says it was intended to divide the nation. (REUTERS)

The U.S. on Tuesday inaugurated an online "virtual" Iranian embassy in what it called "a new and exciting engagement opportunity between the peoples of Iran and the United States."

The Iranian regime blocked access to the website on Wednesday, citing "computer crime law."

The virtual embassy,, was to be the first diplomatic contact between the U.S. and Iran since the taking of U.S. diplomats as hostages by revolutionary forces in 1979. 52 American national were held by militants for 444 days. For the past three decades, American interests in Iran have been represented by the Swiss embassy in Tehran.

Ironically, perhaps, a statement on the website proclaims that "the Iranian government... tries to limit what its citizens see, hear, think and feel by placing an 'electronic curtain' around its people."

Iran's government has long blocked websites it find objectionable, including Facebook, non-English Google sites, and many foreign websites and media pages.

The head of Iranian parliamentary national security and foreign policy commission, Alaeddin Borujerdi, said the virtual embassy was a misguided attempt to make the Iranian people believe Washington wanted to communicate with them, AFP reports.

"The opening of the virtual embassy by the U.S. is a new deception by the Great Satan," he said, according to the parliamentary news agency.

"The Iranian nation will not be fooled by this deception," he added.

Iranian MP Hassan Ghafouri-Fard has ruled out the reestablishment of any formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran, and said that the website was set up because "the U.S. wants to create division between Iran's nation and government."

"Until the US gives up its conspiracies and anti-Iran diplomacy, the Iranian nation will have no desire to establish relations, even at the level of virtual embassies," he said.

Last week, the UK ordered the closure of the Iranian embassy in London and the immediate expulsion of Iranian diplomats following the storming of the British embassy compound in Tehran by protesters.

Relations between the UK and Iran have soured over the Islamic Republic's alleged nuclear programme. The UK, U.S. and Europe have imposed tighter economic and fiscal sanctions on Tehran in response to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that pointed to the possibility of Iran seeking development of a nuclear warhead. Critics say that the report was highly inconclusive and that it is merely being used as a smokescreen to promote a potentially profitable war with Iran.