Saudi denies blocking Iran hajj pilgrims

AFP , Thursday 12 May 2016

File Photo of Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca (Photo: Reuters)

Saudi Arabia on Thursday denied blocking Iranian hajj pilgrims after Tehran alleged "sabotage" by its regional rival.

The kingdom "welcomes all pilgrims from all over the world and from all nationalities and sectarian backgrounds, and does not stop any Muslim from coming", the ministry of hajj said in a statement carried by Al-Riyadh newspaper.

But the visits must occur "within the system and guidelines that organise hajj affairs," the ministry said.

Earlier Thursday Iran said its nationals will miss the annual hajj, expected in early September, after the two countries severed diplomatic ties this year.

Riyadh's hajj ministry said the kingdom did not ban any Iranian pilgrims from coming and accused the Iranian government of using this matter "as one of its many ways to pressure the Saudi government."

The ministry said Iran has "decided to ban" its own citizens from their "right" to perform the pilgrimage.

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