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Iran, Saudi Arabia in Hajj Disagreement

Iran, Saudi Arabia in Hajj Disagreement

The officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have failed to reach agreement on this year’s Hajj.

The Iran Government will not sent pilgrims to Saudi Arabia in this year’s Hajj due to what its officials described as “incompetence” on the part of the Saudi Government that led to the Hajj stampede last year.

Tension between the two countries is brewing following the Sunni-led Kingdom’s execution of prominent Shitte cleric Nimr al-Nimr in January this year. “Iran will not send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year for the annual Hajj,” an Iranian official has said.

This move is the latest sign of tension between the two Middle-East powers after the last year Hajj stampede that killed at least 2,426 pilgrims.

Iran said, “Incompetence caused the crush and stampede last September in the area of Mina during the Hajj, which all able bodied Muslims are required to perform once in their lives. Iran has said the disaster killed 464 of its pilgrims.

According to Alie Jannati, Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance on the IRNA News Agency, “Negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia were aimed at trying to resolve the issue of security during the Hajj, but failed to make any headway as thousands of Iranians mourn victims of the Hajj horror.”

 Mr. Jannati said they did whatever they could but it was the Saudis who sabotaged it.

Iran further accused Saudi officials of not immediately responding to a request for comment.

Later, IRNA Report in English on Mr. Jannati’s comments, which came during a visit to the Iranian holy city of Qom, called the decision tentatively confirmed and suggesting it may not be final. The two countries also support opposing sides in Syria’s civil war and the ongoing conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country.

Every year millions of people travel to Mecca and Madina, the two Islamic holiest sites.

The Saudi officials have however accused their Iranian counterparts of walking out of talks earlier on Friday despite what they said were offered for solutions to the demand of Iranians.

The Saudi leadership has stressed its categorical rejection to politicizing Hajj rituals, while the Head of Iran Office that organizes the pilgrimage, Saeed Ohadi earlier told Iran’s State Television that its country will not send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia unless their safety is ensured. Ohadi also mentioned that the lack of a unified decision by Saudi officials is causing the delay in agreement.

Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah argued that the Government has agreed to issue electronic visas to Iranians in Tehran through the Swiss Embassy which represent Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Ministry also said it had agreed on transporting pilgrims equally between the Saudi national carrier and the Iranian national carrier but that is contrary to report in Iran saying that no Iranian planes will be allowed into Saudi Arabia.

Talks between the two countries have been complicated after Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Iran as a result of a violent protest that destroyed its Embassy in Tehran. The protest was triggered by Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shitte cleric Nimr Al-Nimr but despite the gridlock, Saudi Arabia said it is always ready to help arriving Iranian pilgrims.

By Alhassan Bangura

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