London- With the beginning of the pilgrimage season and in a sign of Tehran’s escalation approach, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reaffirmed his country’s previous policies and called on using the Hajj rituals to take a stance against the United States’ presence in the region.
Khamenei’s calls came amid tensed US-Iranian relations after Washington introduced a new US bill last week that included sanctions against Iran and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) for supporting terrorism.
The bill also threatens the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week criticized the new US bill to impose sanctions on his country and pledged to take a decisive response.
On Sunday, Khamenei said that “Hajj is the best venue” where Muslim nations could raise the issue of the US meddling and mischievous presence in the Islamic countries and the region, in addition to Washington’s creation of Takfiri terrorist groups.
Khamenei said pilgrims should focus this year on the issue of unity, urging Muslims to use Hajj rituals in order to take a united stance against Israeli efforts to control al-Aqsa Mosque.
“Where can the Islamic Umah find a better venue than Hajj to comment on the Al-Aqsa Mosque?” Khamenei said.
Addressing a group of officials in charge of the annual Hajj in Tehran, Khamenei did not comment on the previous Saudi calls that Iran stops politicizing Hajj.
However, the Iranian leader did say that the safety of pilgrims is a Saudi responsibility.
Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Hamid Mohammadi said on Sunday that the Supreme National Security Council of Iran approved to send Iranian pilgrims to the Hajj following talks held between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Last year, Iranians did not participate in the Hajj after tensions between Riyadh and Tehran following a deadly crush of people during the 2015 pilgrimage.