Saudi in­vites ri­val Iran for talks on hajj re­turn

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

RIYADH:

Saudi Ara­bia has in­vited re­gional ri­val Iran to dis­cuss a re­turn of its na­tion­als to next year’s hajj af­ter Ira­ni­ans were ex­cluded from the pil­grim­age fol­low­ing a ma­jor diplo­matic row, re­ports said yes­ter­day.

The Al-Hayat daily re­ported that Riyadh’s pil­grims min­is­ter Mo­hammed Bentin had opened dis­cus­sions with more than 80 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Iran, to work out the de­tails of the 2017 hajj.

“Iran’s hajj del­e­ga­tion was in­vited to come to the king­dom” for prepa­ra­tions, the pa­per said. The Arab News daily said Riyadh would wel­come pil­grims for hajj and the smaller umra rite “ir­re­spec­tive of their na­tion­al­i­ties or sec­tar­ian af­fil­i­a­tions, in­clud­ing Ira­nian pil­grims”.

More than 1.8 mil­lion faith­ful took part in this year’s hajj, but Ira­ni­ans stayed at home af­ter ten­sions be­tween Riyadh and Tehran boiled over fol­low­ing a deadly stam­pede dur­ing the 2015 pil­grim­age.

Iran says it lost 464 peo­ple in the crush out­side Makkah. They were among more than 2,300 peo­ple killed in the worst ever disas­ter to strike the ha­jjone of the five pil­lars of Is­lam-which ca­pa­ble Mus­lims must per­form at least once.

Shi­ite Iran and pre­dom­i­nantly Sunni Saudi Ara­bia are at odds over a raft of re­gional is­sues, no­tably the con­flicts in Syria and Ye­men in which they sup­port op­pos­ing sides.

Riyadh cut ties with Tehran in Jan­uary af­ter Ira­nian demon­stra­tors torched its em­bassy and a con­sulate fol­low­ing its ex­e­cu­tion of a prom­i­nent Shi­ite cleric. — AFP

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