Internet down in Iran ahead of planned protests

Internet access in Tehran was almost completely unavailable on Saturday, two days ahead of planned demonstrations in the Iranian capital by opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Sources close to Iran's technical services told AFP the cut was the result of "a decision by the authorities" rather than a technical breakdown. Telecommunications ministry officials were unavailable for comment.

The internet, SMS text messaged and at times even mobile phone connections have frequently been cut or scrambled since Mr Ahmadinejad's contested re-election in June.

But Saturday's disruption was the first such occurrence a full two days before planned protests.

Iranian opposition groups are preparing to hold fresh demonstrations on Monday, several websites have reported. The elite Revolutionary Guards and other authorities have warned they will take tough action on any attempt by regime opponents to hijack an annual event to mount further protests against Mr Ahmadinejad.

On Dec 7 each year, Tehran marks the 1953 killing by the Shah's security forces of three students, just months after a US-backed coup toppled the prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq.

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