WASHINGTON The United States, at loggerheads with Tehran over its nuclear program, cast strong doubt on the fairness of Iran's parliamentary elections on Friday and said any outcome of the poll would be "cooked."
"In essence the results are cooked. They are cooked in the sense that the Iranian people were not able to vote for a full range of people," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said of the poll.
Iranians voted on Friday in an election likely to keep parliament in the control of conservatives after unelected state bodies barred many reformist foes of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the race.
"They are given the choice of choosing between one supporter of the regime or another supporter of the regime," McCormack told reporters. "They were not given the opportunity ... to vote for somebody who might have had different ideas."
Ahmadinejad has shrugged off criticism about the election.
After the polls closed, McCormack released a statement saying Iran had "once again failed to meet international standards on the conduct of democratic elections."
He urged Iran's leaders to stop what he said was interference in future elections, including the 2009 presidential poll and increase transparency by allowing independent monitors.
"The Iranian regime again used ideological grounds to disqualify candidates for parliament, imposed severe restrictions on the ability of journalists and media outlets to cover the elections, limited the ability of candidates to campaign and refused to allow independent election monitors access to polling stations on election day," McCormack said.
he told reporters the real power in Iran was held by an "unelected few" with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the top.
"These are not constituent elements of a thriving democracy and that is a shame for the Iranian people that they are denied the ability to choose truly who will lead them and be able to freely express their choices through the ballot box," added McCormack.
Last week, the United Nations Security Council passed a new round of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to give up sensitive nuclear work that the West suspects is aimed at building an atomic bomb. Iran argues it is for the generation of electricity.
The United States and other major powers are expected to meet in the coming weeks to discuss how to proceed against Iran, with Russia and China urging greater incentives to get Tehran to change its behavior.
(Reporting by Sue Pleming; editing by Mohammad Zargham and Bill Trott)