CNN: Iran’s Hajj absence to hurt Saudi economy

Tehran, May 31, The Iran Project – CNN says depriving Iranian pilgrims from this year’s Hajj hits the Saudi economy where it hurts.

In a report on Monday, US media said, “It also hits the Saudi economy where it hurts. Saudi makes around $18 billion a year from religious tourism, and Iranians comprise one of the biggest groups of visitors, estimated at around 600,000.” referring to Saudi’s block of Iranian pilgrims from annual rituals.

Saudi officials refused to provide Iranian pilgrims with consular support or guarantee the security of pilgrims, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said in an interview with the Channel 3 of sate-TV.

Addressing “the lovers of Holy Shrines” in a statement, the Iranian Hajj Organization said it and the Islamic Republic of Iran put in every effort to honor the annual rituals. But ongoing talks with Saudi had been futile.

Muslim pilgrims and first responders gather around bodies of people crushed in Mina, Saudi Arabia, on September, 2015 during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AP photo)

Meanwhile, The head of Iran’s Hajj and Organization, Saeed Ohadi on Monday said that the government in Riyadh 11 articles to a memorandum of understanding signed between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which were not there in last years’ Hajj agreements between the two countries.

He stated that the new articles added by the Saudi government, which tried to impose new restrictions on Iranian Hajj pilgrims, made it impossible for the Islamic Republic to accept the whole agreement as a result of which Iran will not be sending Hajj pilgrims to the holy city of Mecca this year.

Ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been tense ever since Tehran strongly condemned the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in January.

Faced with an international outcry, Riyadh jumped on attacks on its two diplomatic missions in Iran by unruly protesters as a pretext to sever diplomatic relations with Tehran.

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.