The Iranian authorities have long accused Google Earth of being a tool for western spy agencies, but now they have taken their attacks on the 3D mapping service one step further – by planning the launch of an "Islamic" competitor.
Iran's minister for information and communications technology, Mohammad Hassan Nami, announced this week that his country was developing what he described as an "Islamic Google Earth" to be called Basir (spectator in Farsi) which will be ready for use "within the next four months".
"Preparations have been made for launching our world's 3D map project and we are currently creating an appropriate data centre which could be capable of processing this volume of information," the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Nami as saying on Tuesday.
Nami, a former deputy chairman of Iran's joint chiefs of staff and the armed forces, was appointed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the new technology minister in February. Nami, who studied political geography in Iran, is also a PhD graduate in "country management" from North Korea's Kim Il-sung University, according to local media.
"We are doing our best to launch the Islamic Google Earth in the next four months as an Islamic republic's national portal, providing service on a global scale," he added.
"On the surface, Google Earth is providing a service to users, but in reality security and intelligence organisations are behind it in order to obtain information from other countries," Nami said.
Iran has often looked at western web services with a great deal of suspicion.