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Iran's Rouhani: Trump went to a country where elections are 'not in their dictionary'

 (Atta Kenare / AFP/Getty Images)
(Atta Kenare / AFP/Getty Images)

Fresh off a resounding reelection victory, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized President Trump on Monday for visiting Iran’s arch-rival Saudi Arabia, but also insisted that he wanted to improve relations with the U.S.

Rouhani said Trump’s meetings in Riyadh over the weekend were “a sham” and drew laughter from the audience at a press conference in Tehran when he compared the high turnout at Iran’s election Friday to the fact that Saudi Arabia has never held elections.

“Mr. Trump has come to the region at a time when 45 million Iranian people went to polling stations, and he went to a country where they don’t know what elections are about,” Rouhani said. “It’s not in their dictionary.

“Hopefully the day will come when Saudi Arabia will adopt this path.”

His triumphant comments neglected to mention that Iran’s elections are hardly free or fair, with candidates chosen by an unelected 12-man council. 

Rouhani’s first extensive remarks since decisively winning a second term signaled that he would continue to seek to engage with the United States even as the Trump administration conducts a three-month review of its Iran policy that could result in tougher economic sanctions other punitive actions.

Rouhani deflected questions about Trump’s calls to isolate Iran over its support for militant groups and its ballistic missile program, suggesting that the new U.S. administration had yet to “settle down” and formulate a coherent policy in the Middle East.

“We are waiting for this new U.S. government to be settled in terms of their stances, posture and future plans,” Rouhani said.

“Hopefully things will be settled down and well established in the U.S. so that we can actually pass judgments on the new administration.”

Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Bengali from Mumbai.

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