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Middle East

Pornographer sells Twitter ID to Israel

Israel's foreign Ministry has acquired the @Israel username on Twitter, the social networking site, from the Spanish owner of adult porn sites.

The Spaniard, who now lives in Miami, Florida, is called Israel Melendez and he set up the account for free in 2007, when Twitter was still a relatively new phenomenon.

The account has lain largely dormant in recent months after Mr Melendez was inundated with a wave of anti-Israel hate mail in response to the country's policies toward the Palestinians. "My account was basically unused because I was getting dozens of replies every day from people who thought the account belonged to the state of Israel," Mr Melendez told The New York Times.

Mr Melendez told the Spanish publication Publico that he approached the Israelis as a joke, but ended up selling the username. Rather than selling it directly, a practice prohibited by Twitter, he ceded control by giving the Israelis his password. They then closed down the account to reopen it later.

Mr Melendez's claim that he sold the username for a "five-zero" sum was rejected by Israel's Foreign Ministry, which said it paid $3,000 (£1,900). Israel is expected to use the Twitter account as part of its multi-media public relations platform aimed at improving Israel's battered image overseas.