Iran official: Pilgrims to miss 2016 hajj after Saudi ‘sabotage’

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Iranian officials accused Saudi Arabia of “sabotage” after talks broke down on a deal that would have enabled Iranians to make the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

“The arrangements have not been put together and it’s now too late,” Iranian Culture Minister Ali Jannati told the official IRNA news agency on May 12. “The sabotage is coming from the Saudis.”

The Grand Mosque at Mecca. /Reuters
The Grand Mosque at Mecca. /Reuters

Diplomatic relations between Sunni Saudi and Shi’ite Iran were severed in January after Iranians attacked Saudi diplomatic facilities in Iran.

Saudi and Iranian officials hit an impasse after four days of talks on the hajj pilgrimage, the first direct talks between the two nations since January.

Iran was seeking to have Saudi Arabia issue visas through the Swiss embassy in Teheran, which has looked after Saudi interests since Riyadh broke off ties.

“Their attitude was cold and inappropriate,” Jannati said. “They did not accept our proposals concerning the issuing of visas or the transport and security of the pilgrims. Saudi officials say our pilgrims must travel to another country to make their visa applications.”

Said Ohadi, head of the Iranian Hajj Organization, said that Riyadh had also refused to lift a flight ban on Iranian airlines for the pilgrimage, which all capable Muslims are expected to perform at least once in their lifetime.

“Unfortunately in Saudi Arabia there is a very hostile political climate towards Iran,” Ohadi said.

Security was another issue of contention. Last year, a massive stampede at the hajj killed more than 2,000 foreign pilgrims, including 464 Iranians.

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