Saudi must ensure security or no Iran pilgrims: Hajj official

The head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization says the Islamic Republic will not send pilgrims to this year’s Hajj unless Saudi Arabia ensures safety for Iranians.   

“The dispatch of Iranian pilgrims to [this year’s] Hajj depends on the Saudi side accepting Iran’s rational conditions and providing security for Iranian pilgrims,” Saeed Ohadi said in a telephone interview with IRIB on Thursday.

The official made the remarks as an Iranian delegation is in Saudi Arabia at the official invitation of new Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten to discuss arrangements for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage months after a deadly crush in Mina which killed hundreds of pilgrims last September.

Ahead of the visit, Iran conveyed its rightful demands as well as its propositions aimed at ensuring safety for Iranian nationals to the Saudi side through a letter, Ohadi said.

He added that Saudi Arabia is to blame for the five-month delay in making arrangements for this year’s Hajj.

Asked about consular services for Iranian pilgrims, Ohadi said,” We have submitted our own proposals and it was planned that Saudi Hajj officials and the country’s Foreign Ministry make preparations in this regard.”

“The lack of a unified decision on the part of Saudi Arabia is the main reason behind the prolonged talks,” Ohadi stressed, expressing hope that Riyadh would come to a final conclusion on Thursday.

“We have stressed in the meetings that this is the last opportunity for [this year’s] Hajj,” the Iranian official concluded.

A Muslim pilgrim walks near dead bodies at the site of a crush in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage on September 24, 2015. (AP photo)

Earlier in the day, Hussein Sharif, the Saudi Hajj Ministry undersecretary, told reporters after a session of talks with the delegation from Tehran that the two sides discussed “arrangements, as well as organization and services” for pilgrims.

He said an agreement had been reached to “use electronic visas which could be printed out” by Iranian pilgrims as Saudi diplomatic missions remain shut in Iran.

Hundreds of people lost their lives in the deadly incident in Mina which took place on September 24, 2015 when two large masses of pilgrims converged at a crossroads during the symbolic ceremony of the stoning of Satan in Jamarat.

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 more than 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives.

The AP record says more than 2,400 pilgrims died in the incident.

By Press TV