Iran may call off Hajj this year

TEHRAN:- If Saudi Arabia does not carry out its responsibilities towards Hajj, Iran will be forced to cancel its annual pilgrimages, the Iranian Foreign Ministry says.

“Saudi Arabia claims that the subject of Hajj is different from political disputes, but there is a vast gap between its words and deeds,” said Hossein Jaberi-Ansari during a trip to Iran’s northwestern city of Tabriz on Tuesday.

“If Saudi Arabia carries out its responsibilities as the host government towards the health and safety of the pilgrims, Hajj will take place, otherwise, Iranians will not be able to take part in Hajj,” he added.

On Thursday, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization said Saudi officials are continuing to stonewall in the talks with the Islamic Republic about the dispatch of Iranian pilgrims to the Arab country this year.

He added that an Iranian delegation had recently held talks with Saudi officials and submitted 20 proposals for ensuring the security and dignity of the Iranian pilgrims during the current year’s Hajj rituals.

Ohadi noted that Saudi officials are supposed to respond clearly to the Iranian delegation’s proposals and make preparations for an overdue agreement.

Riyadh’s inaction comes in the wake of a deadly stampede last year, which drew strong criticism from countries around the world including Iran.

The crush took place on September 24, 2015, after two large masses of pilgrims converged at a crossroads in Mina, near Mecca, during the symbolic ceremony of the stoning of Satan in Jamarat.

The crush was the deadliest incident in the history of the pilgrimage. According to an Associated Press count based on official statements from the 36 countries that lost citizens in the disaster, more than 2,400 pilgrims were killed in the incident.

Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed in the incident, but officials at Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including over 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives.

The tragedy came days after a massive construction crane collapsed onto Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 people and leaving over 200 others wounded. According to the figures released by Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, 11 Iranian pilgrims were among the deceased and 32 of the injured were also Iranian nationals.

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