BY NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday criticized the U.S. presidential candidates' behavior during their recent debates.
"Did you see the debate and the way of their speaking, accusing and mocking each other? Do we want such a democracy in our country? Do we want such elections in our country?" Rouhani said, speaking to a crowd in the Iranian city of Arak.
"You see the United States that claims it has had democracy for more than 200 years," he said in comments broadcast live by state TV. "Look at the country, what the situation is where morality has no place."
Rouhani said that during his September visit to the UN General Assembly, he was asked which of the candidates he preferred. "I said what? Should I prefer bad to worse or worse to bad?"
Iran's state TV has broadcast two of the debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in full. It has closely followed the campaign, often highlighting economic and social problems in the U.S. and the most confrontational debate segments.
Rouhani's speech marked his first public comment on the U.S. election.
Iran will hold its own presidential election in May 2017, and Rouhani is eligible to seek a second term.
Last month, hard-line former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he will not run in the election. Opposition to his candidacy exposed the still-lingering wounds from the widespread unrest that followed his contested 2009 re-election.
Despite a landmark nuclear deal with the United States and world powers that went into effect in January, Tehran and Washington have not restored diplomatic ties that were cut after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and U.S. Embassy takeover.
The deal capped Iran's disputed nuclear activities in return for lifting international nuclear-related sanctions.
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