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Feds Ease Software Export Restrictions

U.S. developers authorized to offer Internet communication apps to Iran, Sudan, and Cuba.

The U.S. Treasury Department On Tuesday said it would lift restrictions on the export of Internet communications software to Iran, Sudan, and Cuba in an effort to promote human rights in those countries.

"Consistent with the Administration's deep commitment to the universal rights of all the world's citizens, the issuance of these licenses will make it easier for individuals in Iran, Sudan, and Cuba to use the Internet to communicate with each other and with the outside world," said Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, in a statement.

"Today's actions will enable Iranian, Sudanese, and Cuban citizens to exercise their most basic rights," said Wolin.

As a result of the move, U.S. software makers such as Google and Microsoft will be able to sell e-mail, chat, and instant messaging applications into Iran, Sudan, and Cuba—countries that have come under international criticism for stifling internal dissent.

Speaking at a conference in Geneva, Google director of policy communications Bob Boorstin called the Treasury Department's decision "a great accomplishment," according to the AP. The ruling means citizens of the affected countries could get officially sanctioned access to Gmail and other free Google products.

Treasury officials singled out Iran, where numerous election protesters have been arrested in recent months, as a country where the new rules could make the widest impact.

"As recent events in Iran have shown, personal Internet-based communications like e-mail, instant messaging, and social networking are powerful tools. This software will foster and support the free flow of information—a basic human right—for all Iranians," said Wolin.

"At the same time as we take these steps, the Administration will continue aggressively enforcing existing sanctions and to work with our international partners to increase pressure on the government of Iran to meet its international obligations," said Wolin.

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