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Rumsfeld slams Iran's 'mock' elections

Israeli foreign minister calls vote a sign of 'radicalism'

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Sunday called Iran's presidential election invalid and the winner "no friend of democracy."

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Rumsfeld said the Iranian government had paved the way for ultra-conservative Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to win the post.

The Iranian president does not run the country; supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameinei has the final word in matters of state in the Islamic theocracy. But the United States and others hoped the victor in the election would be someone they deemed more committed to democratic reforms.

"I think leaving the American people with the impression that it was an election that was valid -- there were over 1,000 candidates that were disqualified, that weren't even allowed to run," Rumsfeld said.

"So the fact that they had a mock election and elected a hard-liner ought not come to any surprise to anybody because all the other people were told they couldn't run."

Iran's Guardian Council did disqualify more than 1,000 candidates, including all the women who wanted to run. President Bush and others in his administration have also slammed Iran's elections.

But seven candidates -- with differences among them -- did receive substantial numbers of votes.

Many election observers had predicted defeat for Ahmadinejad. Iran's Islamic theocratic regime supported a different candidate, while two-term former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- who has taken softer stances on certain key issues -- was expected to win.

Rafsanjani won the most votes in the general national elections, but Ahmadinejad took Friday's runoff with almost 62 percent of the vote.

Rafsanjani complained of fraud, alleging an illegal effort to weaken his candidacy. (Full story)

"By spending tens of billions from the people's treasury, they tried to destroy me and my family's reputation," he wrote. "The penalty for such injustice perpetuated against the county, the people and myself, will incur punishment in this world and the next."

An official with Iran's Interior Ministry also accused Iran's Guardian Council -- which runs the elections -- of fraud in the runoff vote. (Full story)

Rumsfeld said he does not "known much about" Ahmadinejad. "But he is no friend of democracy. He's no friend of freedom. He is a person who is very much supportive of the current ayatollahs, who are telling the people of that country how to live their lives."

"My guess is, over time, the young people and the women will find him, as well as his masters, unacceptable."

Ahmadinejad on Sunday defended his nation's elections and rejected criticism, saying the vote was fair and that he will represent all Iranians.

Ahmadinejad vowed that "moderation will be the main policy of this government regarding internal affairs" and "no extremism will be acceptable."

He promised his government will be one of "peace" and will "cooperate with all other countries."

But he also said his country has "no significant need for [relations with] the United States."

Israeli criticism rejected

Israel, meanwhile, also condemned the elections.

"We do not consider them to be democratic elections by any means," said Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

"Furthermore, the result proves once again that Iran is heading toward more radicalism and extremism rather than toward reform and reconciliation."

He cited "the Iranian nuclear threat," a reference to U.S. and Israeli concerns that Iran is trying to operate a covert nuclear weapons program -- a charge Tehran denies.

Shalom called on the international community to "formulate a unified and stern policy toward Iran. We must insure that more than Western countries will not become hostages of the Iranian radicalism. We call upon the U.N. Security Council to take the matter into its own hands."

Ahmadinejad responded to the Israeli government's remarks Sunday.

"If you are accusing somebody, you must bring evidence," he said, accusing Israel of causing "disturbances in the Middle East."

Israel has "no right to make such comments about Iran," he said.

Ahmadinejad said his nation will continue its nuclear program "for peaceful purposes, and it is our right to have that capacity for energy, for medical purposes and development of our technology."

The European Union has led talks on the issue with Tehran, and Ahmadinejad said those talks would continue.

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