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US 'virtual embassy' is espionage trap: Iran spy chief

world Updated: Dec 12, 2011 16:01 IST

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A website the United States touts as a "virtual embassy" for Iran is really an "espionage trap," the Islamic republic's spy chief said in media reports Monday.

Heydar Moslehi warned Iranians that the website was "a bait to lure them into an espionage trap," the Shargh daily reported.

"Our people, in particular the young people, must be vigilant," the paper quoted him as telling reporters after a cabinet meeting late Sunday.

He said that the US "virtual embassy" followed the same approach and objective as of the "den of spies" -- the term coined by Iranian officials for the former US embassy in Tehran, which was closed after militant students stormed it in 1979 and took 52 Americans inside hostage.

Washington launched its outreach website on December 6, describing it as a way for Americans and Iranians to communicate "openly and without fear" in the absence of official ties.

Iranian officials have harshly criticised the site, with foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast saying it would "fail" and was an admission of error by the US for cutting ties with Tehran.

The US website offers policy statements in English and Farsi, gives information on US visas, and provides news from the US-funded Voice of America.

Access to the website,, was blocked in Iran soon after its launch, with browsers redirected to a page saying it violated computer crime laws.