Mecca, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Crown Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz yesterday ruled out any compromise with Iran over its involvement in a plot to murder the Kingdom’s ambassador to Washington and that no special “understanding” has been reached with the country over the annual hajj pilgrimage.
“There is no understanding because there is no need for it,” Crown Prince Naif bin Abdel Aziz told a news conference in mecca when asked if there were any arrangements being made for Iranians pilgrimage heading to Mecca in the wake of the murder plot.
“The Iranians have always shown their respect for the hajj,” the crown prince said, however Prince Naif, who also holds the interior portfolio, warned that Saudi Arabia would take “all means” to ensure a peaceful pilgrimage during the hajj which starts later this week.
“The kingdom is ready to face up to all situations, whatever they may be,” he said.
“We will use peaceful means in case of trouble,” he said in statements carried by the official SPA news agency.
“We will mobilise all our means to prevent any harm against any pilgrim or any group of pilgrims,” he added.
The news conference followed a military parade featuring riot police, Special Forces and tanks that the kingdom can call upon in the event of trouble hitting the pilgrimage.
A total 97,000 Iranians — the maximum allowed for Iran under a Saudi system apportioning pilgrim quotas among the world’s biggest Muslim countries — were now in the holy Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina, Iranian media said Monday, quoting Iran’s pilgrimage chief Ali Layali.
The representative of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the pilgrimage, Hojatoleslam Ali Ghazi Asgar, was quoted last week saying: “We hope this year’s hajj (pilgrimage) will take place in a very calm and spiritual atmosphere.”
Saudi security forces have several times in the past confronted Iranian pilgrims holding anti-US and anti-Israeli protests.
In 1987, Saudi police efforts to stifle such a demonstration sparked clashes in which 402 people died, including 275 Iranians.
Already strained ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia became taut last month when the United States accused Iranian officials of having a hand in a thwarted plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel-Al-Jubeir.
Iran has strongly denied involvement and emphasised “good relations” with its Arab neighbour across the Gulf.
More than 1.5 million Muslims have arrived in Saudi Arabia for the hajj, state media reported on Monday.
Hajj rituals will begin on Friday and the pilgrimage will peak on Saturday.