TEHRAN, Iran, May 12, (Agencies): Iran will not send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year for the annual hajj pilgrimage, an Iranian offi cial said Thursday, the latest sign of tensions between the two Mideast powers after a disaster during the event last year killed at least 2,426 people. Iran said Saudi “incompetence” caused the Sept 24 crush and stampede in the holy city of Mina during the Hajj, which is required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life.
The Islamic Republic has said the disaster killed 464 of its pilgrims. Negotiations between Shiite power Iran and the Sunni kingdom had been trying to “resolve the issue” of security for months, but failed to make any headway, said Ali Jannati, Iran’s minister of culture and Islamic guidance. “We did whatever we could but it was the Saudis who sabotaged” it, Jannati said in comments carried by the state-run IRNA news agency. “Now the time is lost.” The state-run Saudi Press Agency did not immediately report on Jannati’s comments.
A later IRNA report in English on Jannati’s comments, which came during a visit to the Iranian holy city of Qom, called the decision “tentatively confi rmed,” something that wasn’t in the initial Farsi-language report. The discrepancy could not be immediately reconciled. The announcement about the hajj comes as tensions remain high between the two countries since the Jan 2 execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom has called the cleric a dangerous terrorist who stirred dissent in the country’s predominantly Shiite east, something denied by his family, who say al-Nimr never advocated violence nor picked up a weapon. Al-Nimr’s execution sparked widespread protests in Iran, which views itself as the protector of Shiites around the world. Demonstrations outside of Saudi diplomatic posts in Tehran and Mashhad turned violent, however, and saw protesters storm the buildings.