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Saudi Arabia to suspend BlackBerry Messenger

Mobile networks must fulfil requirements from CITC

The Messenger function on BlackBerries could be blocked in Saudi Arabia as soon as this Friday, following calls from the country's telecommunications watchdog.

The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) wants the three mobile networks in the country to block the service until they "fulfil the regulatory requirements" it has requested. However, the watchdog did not elaborate on the requirements themselves.

Messenger will be among the BlackBerry services suspended in Saudi Arabia from Friday

The move by the CITC comes days after the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) revealed it would suspend a number of BlackBerry services, including the ability to send emails and access the web, from October 11 as they do not fall in line with the country's regulations.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that BlackBerry-maker RIM refused to set up a proxy server in the U.A.E. and that the U.A.E. government was concerned that instant messages sent via BlackBerry's service could not be traced, so couldn't be monitored or used in criminal or terrorist investigations. The Journal quoted two different anonymous sources regarding the reasons for the U.A.E.'s decision.

"In recent days there has been a range of commentary, speculation, and misrepresentation regarding this solution and we want to take the opportunity to set the record straight. There is only one BlackBerry enterprise solution available to our customers around the world and it remains unchanged in all of the markets we operate in," the smartphone manufacturer said.

"RIM co-operates with all governments with a consistent standard and the same degree of respect. Any claims that we provide, or have ever provided, something unique to the government of one country that we have not offered to the governments of all countries, are unfounded."

RIM aslo said the BlackBerry enterprise solution was designed to preclude itself, or any third party, from reading encrypted information under any circumstances "since RIM does not store or have access to the encrypted data".

"RIM cannot accommodate any request for a copy of a customer’s encryption key, since at no time does RIM, or any wireless network operator or any third party, ever possess a copy of the key.  This means that customers of the BlackBerry enterprise solution can maintain confidence in the integrity of the security architecture without fear of compromise."

Yesterday, RIM unveiled the BlackBerry Torch 9800 - a hybrid BlackBerry handset that combines a Qwerty keyboard and a 3.2in capacitive touchscreen display.

See also: Flash for BlackBerry still a work in progress

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