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Iran to miss Haj, says Riyadh blocking path to Allah

AFP
Published : May 30, 2016, 7:10 am IST
Updated : May 30, 2016, 7:10 am IST

Iran said on Sunday its pilgrims will miss 2016’s Haj because Saudi Arabia, custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, was raising obstacles and “blocking the path to Allah” for its faithful.

Iran said on Sunday its pilgrims will miss 2016’s Haj because Saudi Arabia, custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, was raising obstacles and “blocking the path to Allah” for its faithful.

Riyadh said Iran’s Haj demands were “unacceptable”.

The Iranian Haj Organisation said: “Saudi Arabia is opposing the absolute right of Iranians to go on the Haj and is blocking the path leading to Allah.”

The Saudi side had failed to respond to Iranian demands over “the security and respect” of its pilgrims to Mecca, of whom 60,000 took part in 2015’s Haj, the organisation said.

In the latest dispute between regional rivals Tehran and Riyadh, “after two series of negotiations without any results because of obstacles raised by the Saudis, Iranian pilgrims will unfortunately not be able to take part in the Haj” in September, Iran’s culture minister Ali Jannati said.

Saudi officials have said an Iranian delegation ended a visit to the kingdom on Friday without reaching final agreement on arrangements for pilgrims from the Islamic republic.

Riyadh’s Haj ministry said it had offered “many solutions” to meet a string of demands made by the Iranians in two days of talks.

Agreement had been reached in some areas, including to use electronic visas which could be printed out by Iranian pilgrims, as Saudi diplomatic missions remain shut in Iran, it said.

On Sunday, at a joint press briefing in Jeddah with Britain’s visiting foreign secretary Philip Hammond, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir denounced Iran’s demands.

“Iran has demanded the right to organise... demonstrations and to have privileges... that would cause chaos during the Haj. This is unacceptable,” Mr al-Jubeir said.

He said that Riyadh annually signs a Haj memorandum of understanding with more than 70 countries “to guarantee the security and safety of pilgrims”, but “Iran refused to sign the memorandum”.

“If it is about measures and procedures, I think we have done more than our duty to meet those needs, but it is the Iranians who have rejected things,” Mr al-Jubeir added.

2016’s would be the first Haj in almost three decades to take place without the participation of pilgrims from Iran.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia accused Iran on Sunday of sowing “sedition” in Iraq urging the Islamic republic to “stop intervening” in the affairs of its neighbours.

“Sedition and division in Iraq are the results of sectarian policies that developed out of Iran's policies in Iraq,” said Mr al-Jubeir in the joint press briefing. in Jeddah.

“If Iran wants stability in Iraq, it has to stop intervening and withdraw,” he said after accusing Tehran of sending “Shia militias” to the war-torn country.

“Iran should respect the principle of good neighbourly relations, to focus on its internal situation and not intervene in the affairs of other countries in the region, mainly Iraq,” he said.

Shia-dominated Iran is the arch rival of the Sunni-led Arab kingdom.