File photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

London -

Former US presidential candidate John McCain was at the centre of a race row on Monday night after comparing Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a monkey.

The unapologetic senator later insisted his critics should “lighten up” after he posted on Twitter mocking President Ahmadinejad’s declaration on Monday that he was willing to be the first Iranian sent into space

He was volunteering for the mission just a week after Tehran claimed to have successfully sent a monkey beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

Mr McCain, 76, angered Twitter users after he shared: “So Ahmadinejad wants to be the first Iranian in space - wasn’t he just there last week?”

“That is absolutely disgusting. Criticism of Ahmadinejad fine. Racist slurs are not,” tweeted Rachel Moss, from Oxford. - Daily Mail