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Iran leader gets the clicks with Facebook rumor

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Facebook page purportedly created by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attracted nearly 10,000 followers on Tuesday although the site's content and style raise serious questions about its authenticity.

Iranian authorities had no immediate comment on the site, which apparently went online last week but only recently gained prominence among social media watchers. Despite the possibility that it is a hoax, the page has generated at least 170 comments — laudatory and derogatory, and nearly all in Farsi — that highlight the deep political divisions in Iran and possibly opposition fervor from expatriate Iranians.

One post compared Khamenei to a celebrated ruler of ancient Persia, Cyrus the Great, who significantly expanded the Persian empire 2,500 years ago.

Another wrote: "Mr. Khamenei, how are you visiting this page? With proxy?"

It was a reference to Iran's blocking of Facebook and many other Western social media sites, and the efforts to bypass the restrictions using proxy server links from outside Iran.

The U.S. State Department said Monday it will keep tabs on the page, but had no comment on whether it was genuine or not. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland joked that Washington is curious how many "likes" the Khamenei page receives.

But much about the page — including an informal photo of Khamenei riding in a car — suggested it was not sanctioned by Iran's top leader. It is also highly unlikely that Khamenei would endorse a banned outlet such as Facebook.

The Net is not unknown territory for Iranian leaders, however. Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and others have official websites. Also, some senior Iranian clerics issue religious opinions by email.

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