Iran has condemned US Republican presidential candidate John McCain for joking about killing Iranians with cigarettes and said it showed his "warmongering" foreign policy attitude, media said on Sunday.
McCain, who once sang in jest about bombing Iran, on Tuesday reacted to a report of rising US cigarette exports to the Islamic Republic by saying it may be "a way of killing 'em."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said: "McCain's crude remark on the indiscriminate killing of the Iranian nation not only testifies to his disturbed state of mind, but also to his warmongering approach to foreign policy."
In a statement quoted by the website of Iran's state Press TV satellite station, Hosseini added: "We condemn such jokes and believe them to be inappropriate for a US Presidential candidate. It is most evident that jokes about genocide will not be tolerated by Iranians or Americans."
'I meant that as a joke'
McCain, known for acerbic comments and for sometimes firing verbally from the hip, was responding to a report that US exports to Iran rose tenfold during President George W. Bush's term in office despite hostility between the two countries.
A rise in cigarette sales was a big part of that, according to an Associated Press analysis.
"Maybe that's a way of killing 'em," McCain said to reporters during a campaign stop in Pittsburgh. "I meant that as a joke, as a person who hasn't had a cigarette in 28 years, 29 years," he added, laughing.
His comments coincided with rising tension between Iran and its arch-foes, the United States and Israel, over the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear program.
US leaders have not ruled out military options if diplomacy fails to assuage fears about Iran's nuclear work, which they suspect is aimed at making bombs but which Tehran says is only to produce electricity.