Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the presidential election in Iran does not fit democratic norms, in large part because unelected clerics decided who would run. Ms. Rice says Iran's leaders are out of step with the move toward democracy in the region.
Secretary Rice leaves no doubt she believes the Iranian election process is flawed.
"An election that took place with an unelected few having decided who could run, with thousands of people having been disqualified, with women having been disqualified altogether, I find it hard to see how this election could certainly contribute to the sense of legitimacy of the Iranian government," Ms. Rice says.
During an appearance on the ABC television program This Week, Ms. Rice reflected on Friday's presidential election in Iran, which resulted in a two-man run-off between former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the hard-line mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Seven candidates competed in Friday's election. Hundreds of other potential candidates, mainly reformists and women, were disqualified by the Guardian Council, an unelected body of hard-line mullahs.
Ms. Rice declined to talk about accusations from reformists in Iran that the vote was rigged in favor of conservatives. Instead, she spoke about the importance of democratic principles, and said Iran is out of step with other countries in the region.
"If you look at elections in Lebanon, or elections that took place in Iraq, or elections that took place in the Palestinian territories, there are not people standing there saying, 'well, you cannot run,' or, 'you shouldn't run.' No, I just do not see the Iranian elections as being a serious attempt to move Iran closer to a democratic future," Ms. Rice says.
The secretary of state spoke from Jerusalem in one of a series of interviews she conducted with American television networks following her talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders.
On the Fox News Sunday program, she said those discussions revealed a common concern about Iran's ties to groups that threaten the Middle East peace process, as Israel prepares to pull out of the Gaza Strip.
"We are about to go through a very important step here, with the disengagement (the Israeli pull-out from the Gaza Strip). And a group like the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that just announced that it is not going to live up to the agreement that it had with the Palestinian Authority to provide calm, who is one of their biggest supporters? The Iranians," Ms. Rice says.
From Israel, Ms. Rice traveled to Jordan. On Monday, she meets in Cairo with both Egyptian government and reformist leaders. The United States has been urging Egypt to adopt more democratic reforms, while welcoming its help in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and combating terrorism.