Last Updated 23 | 03 | 2014 at 18:00

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Turkey President's Tweet Criticises Twitter Ban

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Turkish President Abdullah Gul has taken to Twitter to hit out at the social networking site being blocked in his country.

Mr Gul is setting himself at odds with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who earlier threatened to "wipe out" Twitter. Hours after his vow, the website went offline, sparking criticism from opposition leaders and the European Union, which Turkey has been trying to join.

Mr Gul, a frequent user of social media, has joined the outrage, tweeting: "One cannot approve of the complete closure of social media platforms." Twitter has yet to issue a formal statement, but the company did publish a tweet addressed to users in Turkey telling them how to continue tweeting via text message.

Some users trying to visit the Twitter site had been redirected to a statement apparently from Turkey's telecommunications regulator, which cited four court orders as the basis of blocking it. A government official confirmed the block to Reuters, saying that it was because of "problems with the management of Twitter."

European leaders said the move violated citizen's rights to freedom of speech and may threaten Turkey's bid to enter the EU. Neelie Kroes, the EU commissioner for digital agenda, tweeted that the block in Turkey was "groundless, pointless, and cowardly" and amounted to censorship.

Opposition politician Aykan Erdemir said his party would take "legal action" against the ban.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel tweeted that "in a free society it is up to citizens to decide how to communicate, not the state".Mr Erdogan's earlier threat to "wipe out" Twitter was in response to users posting voice recordings and documents purporting to show corruption among his inner circle - charges Mr Erdogan denies.

In one of the recordings Mr Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003, allegedly instructs his son to dispose of large amounts of money from a residence. The prime minister has said the recording was fabricated and part of moves to discredit his government ahead of key local elections on March 30.

He told a crowd of supporters at a rally: "We will wipe out all of these. The international community can say this, can say that. I don't care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is."

After his speech, Mr Erdogan's office said in a statement he was referring to what it called Twitter's failure to implement the court orders seeking the removal of some links. The prime minister has directed his ire at Twitter before, labelling it "a scourge" after it was used to fuel a series of popular protests last summer.

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