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Saudi Cabinet Blames Iran for not Sending Pilgrims | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Chairs Cabinet Session (SPA)

The Saudi Cabinet reiterated on Monday that Iran was responsible for preventing its citizens from taking part in Hajj this year.

A statement issued by the official Saudi Press Agency said the Cabinet renewed Riyadh’s confirmation about “its duties and responsibilities towards the service of the guests of the Grand Holy Mosque.”

The Cabinet said Saudi Arabia “welcomes and is honored in serving pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors of all nationalities and it does not prevent any Muslim from coming to the holy lands.”

The statement said “the decision to prevent Iranian citizens from coming to perform Hajj rites was due to Iranian officials who will be responsible in front of Allah Almighty and the entire world.”

It stressed that Riyadh rejects “Iranian attempts to put obstacles to prevent the arrival of Iranian pilgrims,” saying Tehran aims to “politicize Hajj rites and exploit them” to harm Saudi Arabia.

The Cabinet session was chaired by The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

Last Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj Ministry said the kingdom ensured Iranian officials obtained visas to meet with Saudi officials in April to discuss arrangements for this year’s Hajj.

The ministry said that Iranian officials made demands that all visas for Iranian pilgrims be issued from inside Iran; that the transport of pilgrims be divided between Iranian and Saudi air carriers; and that a clause be included in the record to allow Iranian pilgrims to hold a Shi’ite ritual during the Hajj.

But Saudi Arabia said it made clear to the Iranian delegation that Iranians can obtain hajj visas by applying online in the absence of a Saudi Embassy in Tehran; that allowing Iran’s national carrier to transport pilgrims runs contrary to “internationally recognized practice;” and that allowing this ritual would “hinder movements” of other pilgrims from around the world.

The ministry added that any decision to bar Iranian pilgrims from the Hajj is being “imposed by the Iranian government … as a means to pressure Saudi Arabia.”

Also Monday, King Salman “briefed the Cabinet on the message received from the King of Bahrain, the telephone call received from the President of Republic of Turkey, and the results of his meetings with the United States Secretary of State and the Commander of United States Central Command,” said SPA.