MEDINA, Saudi Arabia (AFP) – Iran’s foreign minister will visit Saudi Arabia soon to reassure the authorities that Tehran has no intention of disrupting the hajj, an Iranian official said on Wednesday.
Manouchehr Mottaki “will pay a visit to Saudi Arabia before the pilgrimage to meet his Saudi counterpart (Prince Saud al-Faisal),” Ali Ghazi Asgar, a senior official in charge of Iranian pilgrims, told AFP.
Mottaki will seek “to reassure our brothers in Saudi Arabia” that Iran wants “to avoid all troubles” during the annual pilgrimage, which is due to take place the last week of November, Asgar said.
“We do not want those who seek to sow discord between Saudi Arabia and Iran to succeed,” Asgar added.
About 65,000 Iranian pilgrims are due to attend this year’s hajj and Asgar said they “will perform the same rites as in previous years without causing problems to Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries.”
Iranian pilgrims are due to hold a “peaceful rally that does not breach Saudi laws, during which they expect to chant “Death to America, Death to Israel,” Asgar said.
“They will not ask pilgrims from other nationalities to join them,” he said.
The Saudi government has warned it would not tolerate disturbances during the hajj, without mentioning Iran by name, and senior officials have told Tehran not to politicise the pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam.
“Anything that takes on the appearance of a political demonstration or statement will be met by the most stringent of measures,” a Saudi government adviser told AFP.
Several times during the 1980s, Iranian pilgrims mounted demonstrations in the holy city of Mecca, and in 1987 Iranian pilgrims rioted, leading to more than 400 deaths.