Iran, Saudi discuss hajj safety after stampede

AFP , Friday 15 Apr 2016

Saudi Forces
File Photo: Saudi security forces take part in a military parade in preparation for the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Photo: AP)

An Iranian delegation has held talks in Saudi Arabia about the safety of pilgrims after a deadly stampede at last year's hajj, an official said on Friday.

It is the first dialogue between the rival powers since a diplomatic crisis erupted in January.

The head of the Iranian Hajj Organisation, Said Ohadi, told Iranian state television that discussions over the pilgrims' welfare began on Thursday in Mecca.

"We asked that... the safety of Iranian pilgrims be ensured and that pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia only on Iranian aircraft," Ohadi was quoted as saying.

Iran and Saudi Arabia stand on opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

The death of more than 2,000 foreign pilgrims, including 464 Iranians, in the stampede at last year's hajj in Saudi Arabia also caused a major spike in tensions.

Riyadh severed diplomatic ties with Iran in January after its diplomatic missions in Tehran and Mashhad were stormed and set alight by mobs following the Sunni kingdom's execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

This year's annual hajj -- a pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca that all Muslims are expected to perform at least once in their lifetime -- is due to take place in September.

So far, the Riyadh government has taken no action to compensate the families of Iranian victims, according to Ohadi.

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