Iran has blocked access to Facebook ahead of June presidential polls, allegedly to prevent supporters of the leading opposition candidate from using the site for his campaign, Ilna news agency said on Saturday.
"Access to the Facebook site was prohibited several days ahead of the presidential election," Ilna, considered close to Iranian reformists, said in reference to the June 12 vote. "According to certain Internet surfers, the site was banned because supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi were using Facebook to better disseminate the candidate's positions."
An employee of an Internet service provider who requested anonymity said the ministry of communications and information technology had announced the decision.
However, there was no immediate comment from the authorities on the claims. Former Prime Minister Mousavi is backed by two-time ex-reformist president Mohammad Khatami and the main reformist parties. He is considered to be the main rival to hardline incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is seeking a second four-year term.
One Facebook page dedicated to Mousavi has more than 5,200 supporters.
It contains biographical information on the candidate and a statement on his proposed policies, as well as photographs both of him and of his fans.
As is the case with any such Facebook page, there are also comments posted by fans, as well as one by the candidate himself, saying "Ahmadinejad's government has dishonored Iranians across the world."
There are also a number of sites pages dedicated to Ahmadinejad but none of them appear to have backing from the president's campaign. Mousavi partisans were already reacting to the cut, with some announcing alternative addresses to access Facebook.
"We need to let everyone know by email," wrote Parastoo Salamat. Meanwhile, Payham Ebrahimi wrote: "we are waiting for a firm reaction from Mousavi."
State media accused of biasAlso vying for the presidency are former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai and ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi.
The final lineup was revealed on Wednesday by Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli as he announced the start of the official campaign to run until 24 hours before election day.
Iranian state-controlled television and radio have already been the focus of debate over whether candidates will get equal treatment.
On Friday, influential former president Akbar Hashemi Fafsanjani urged the state-run broadcaster to "act justly and unbiased" in covering the campaign.
"Television and radio as the nation's sole broadcaster, gets its credibility from the people's satisfaction and trust. Therefore it should act justly and unbiased during campaigning days," Rafsanjani said.
Mousavi has already accused the television of "repeated and open breaches of neutrality."
Last Sunday reformist Iran daily newspaper Yas No (New Jasmine) was stopped from publishing a day after it returned to news-stands following a six year ban, the ISNA news agency reported.
Facebook, founded in 2004 by former Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, claims to have 175 million members worldwide. In Iran, the service is normally available in Farsi and in English.