Iran says tests will show how diplo­mat died

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

TEHRAN: Iran expects med­i­cal tests to es­tab­lish within 48 hours if a high-rank­ing diplo­mat died on pil­grim­age in the stam­pede at the hajj in Saudi Ara­bia, fol­low­ing con­trast­ing ac­counts about his demise. Ghazanfar Rokn­abadi, 49, a for­mer am­bas­sador to Le­banon, was ini­tially re­ported as be­ing among 464 Ira­nian pil­grims killed in the hajj’s worst-ever tragedy in Septem­ber. At least 2,236 wor­ship­pers per­ished in the gi­ant crush at Mina, near the Mus­lim holy city of Makkah in western Saudi Ara­bia.

But sus­pi­cion has sur­rounded the cir­cum­stances of Rokn­abadi’s death, with se­nior of­fi­cials suggest­ing as late as two weeks ago that he was alive and be­ing held hostage. Iran fi­nally con­firmed Thurs­day that Rokn­abadi’s corpse had been iden­ti­fied in Saudi Ara­bia. His body ar­rived back in Tehran on Fri­day with his cof­fin draped in the Ira­nian flag for a fu­neral cer­e­mony.

Con­fu­sion over his death added to al­ready heavy strain be­tween Tehran and Riyadh, the Mid­dle East’s strong­est Shi­ite and Sunni pow­ers, who back op­pos­ing sides in con­flicts in Syria and Ye­men. Rokn­abadi was Tehran’s en­voy to Beirut, a highly sen­si­tive post, un­til last year. Le­banon is home to the Ira­nian-backed Shi­ite move­ment Hezbol­lah, al­lied with Pres­i­dent Bashar alAs­sad in the Syr­ian civil war, who Riyadh has re­peat­edly urged to stand down.

Rokn­abadi’s body was iden­ti­fied by DNA in Saudi Ara­bia but sec­ondary test­ing will be used to de­ter­mine if he died in the stam­pede, the ISNA news agency quoted his brother as say­ing. “If the re­sult of ex­am­i­na­tions in Tehran con­tra­dicts the Saudis’ claim that my brother died in the Mina in­ci­dent we will com­plain via in­ter­na­tional fo­rums,” Morteza Rokn­abadi said. Giv­ing a 48-hour time­frame for test re­sults, he ac­knowl­edged the ru­mours about his brother’s death, which in­cluded re­cent re­marks by Iran’s Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Hos­sein Amir Ab­dol­lahian. “Our in­tel­li­gence in­di­cates that he is still alive, and we ask Saudi Ara­bia to re­turn him alive,” Ab­dol­lahian said on Nov 11.

When Rokn­abadi was ini­tially re­ported as be­ing among the hajj vic­tims, Iran’s for­eign min­istry de­nied claims by some Arab me­dia that he had trav­elled to Saudi Ara­bia un­der a false name. Yes­ter­day, min­istry spokesman Hos­sein Jaberi An­sari con­firmed fur­ther test­ing would take place to es­tab­lish how the diplo­mat died. Top Ira­nian of­fi­cials in­clud­ing supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei ac­cused Saudi Ara­bia of in­com­pe­tence at this year’s hajj and said the han­dling of the af­ter­math and repa­tri­a­tion of bod­ies was far too slow. How­ever state me­dia re­ported Fri­day that Iran’s For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif held a bi­lat­eral meet­ing with his Saudi coun­ter­part Adel AlJubeir on Nov 14 in Vi­enna.

The meet­ing, on the side­lines of in­ter­na­tional peace talks over Syria, is thought to be the high­est direct en­gage­ment be­tween Iran and Saudi since King Sal­man came to power in Jan­uary. ISNA and other news agen­cies said the min­is­ters dis­cussed the Mina stam­pede, the pil­grims still miss­ing and le­gal as­pects of the in­ci­dent. — AFP

TEHRAN: An Ira­nian honor guard car­ries the cof­fin of Iran’s for­mer am­bas­sador to Le­banon Ghazanfar Rokn­abadi, who was killed in Saudi Ara­bia, dur­ing a repa­tri­a­tion cer­e­mony upon the ar­rival of his body at Mehrabad Air­port yes­ter­day. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.