Iran's top news agency Fars has issued an apology after running a story lifted from satirical website The Onion - unaware that it was actually a spoof.

The Onion's original story - published early last week - claimed that 77% of rural white Americans prefer Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Barack Obama.

The tongue-in-cheek piece quoted fictitious West Virginia resident Dale Swiderski as saying he would "much rather go to a baseball game or have a beer with Ahmadinejad, a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed, than spend time with Obama".

Fars' editor-in-chief has since admitted that the story was "extracted" from The Onion on Friday, but was taken down within two hours, reports the BBC.

And how's this for trying to wriggle out of any embarrassment? He then added: "Although it does not justify our mistake, we do believe that if a free opinion poll is conducted in the US, a majority of Americans would prefer anyone outside the US political system to President Obama and American statesmen." Anyone? Really?

Oh well, we suppose we shouldn't snigger too much at the news agency's error. After all, there but for the grace of God go any of us. Only the other week, we thought this was a genuine Obama campaign video...