Saudi Arabia Doom Continues! Iran Says It Will Avoid the Hajj This Year, Blaming Saudi Arabia


From the NEW YORK TIMES: 


Angry over what it described as Saudi sabotage, Iran said Thursday that Iranian citizens would not participate this year in the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the host country of Islam’s holiest places.

Saudi Arabia said Iran was to blame for the problem, accusing the Iranians of making unacceptable demands.

It was unclear from the statements by both sides whether the dispute was intractable or could still be solved ahead of the hajj, which takes place in September.

Regardless, the statements reflected the worsening relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia, longtime regional rivals that are on opposite sides of conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Millions of Muslim pilgrims worldwide visit the sacred Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina during the hajj, and the Saudi kingdom takes great pride in hosting the event as well as a lesser pilgrimage that can be done anytime, known as the umrah.

The hajj was marred last September by a catastrophic stampede that according to outside estimates killed more than 2,400 people. Iran said more than 460 were Iranians, among the biggest losses of any country.

Saudi Arabia has said 769 people were killed but has not explained the discrepancy in the death tolls. Nor has Saudi Arabia disclosed any results from what it promised would be a thorough investigation of the stampede, regarded as one of the worst in the history of the hajj.

The stampede added to the longstanding tensions between Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, and Saudi Arabia, predominantly Sunni. In January, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran after Iranian protesters burned the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, angered over Saudi Arabia’s execution of an outspoken Shiite cleric.

The absence of diplomatic relations further complicated any plans by Iranians who wished to make the hajj this year, because they cannot obtain Saudi visas in Iran, and direct transportation has been halted. An Iranian delegation held four days of talks with Saudi Arabia last month to discuss hajj arrangements, a rare face-to-face negotiation between the countries in the months since diplomatic relations were severed.

But Iran’s minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Ali Jannati, said Thursday that the talks had gone poorly. Asserting that there would be no hajj participation by Iran this year, he blamed the Saudis.

“Their attitude was cold and inappropriate,” Mr. Jannati said in remarks quoted by the Iranian state-sponsored website Press TV. “They did not accept our proposals concerning the issuing of visas, the transport and security of the pilgrims.”

He said “conditions are not prepared for conducting hajj, we have lost the time, we made our utmost effort but the sabotage is coming from the Saudis.”

Another senior Iranian figure, Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, did not go as far as Mr. Jannati in saying there would be no hajj participation by Iran this year, but he strongly suggested it.

“The Saudi behavior is evidently insulting,” he said in remarks quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. “We want a hajj pilgrimage performed with dignity and respect.”

The Saudi ministry responsible for the hajj arrangements rebutted the Iranian statements, saying Iran’s negotiators had insisted, among other things, on the granting of visas inside Iran. The Saudis have said visas can be obtained through an online system used by all visiting pilgrims, according to a news report on the dispute by Al Jazeera.

“Iran is the only country that refused to sign the agreement on the hajj,” Mohammad Bintin, the Saudi minister of hajj and umrah, was quoted as saying in the report.

This is not the first time that Iran and Saudi Arabia have clashed over pilgrimages. Relations frayed in 1987 when nearly 300 Iranian pilgrims died in clashes in Mecca and protesters in Tehran seized the Saudi Embassy. The Saudis suspended ties with Iran in 1988 and they were not restored until 1991, but during that time, Iranians did not perform the hajj.

All Muslims who can afford to are supposed to perform the hajj once in their lives, and it is regarded as one of the most sacred obligations in Islam. The Saudi monarch bears the title of “the custodian of the two holy mosques,” referring to his personal responsibility for Mecca and Medina. NYT Read More>>>>>>>


More Doom for Saudi Arabia to follow.....



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