An Iranian censor has banned the use of the WhatsApp messaging application because it is owned by an "American Zionist, according to news reports.

What'sApp was purchased two months ago by Facebook, which was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, an American Jew.

The ban seems to have triggered an open dispute with the government, which has been attempting to implement moderate social policies. "The government is completely against the ban on WhatsApp," Communications Minister Mahmoud Mehr told the state news agency IRNA.

The ban was announced by the secretary of the Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content, Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, who was quoted as saying that "the reason for this is the adoption of WhatsApp by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist."

The committee has not yet made decision on filtering other smartphone applications, such as Viber, Tango and Instagram, Khorramabadi said. Iran blocked access to another social network application, WeChat, last December.

Twitter and Facebook have been banned in Iran since 2009, when ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election victory sparked off massive protests that gained momentum with the help of organizers using social media.

Iranian users are still able to access them via proxies, though it requires a degree of technical knowledge.

Facebook has not commented on the reports.