Ex-Diplomat Still Missing in S. Arabia

Ex-Diplomat Still Missing in S. ArabiaEx-Diplomat Still Missing in S. Arabia

Former ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi is still among pilgrims who went missing after the September 24 crush during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, the deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs said.

"Extensive efforts are underway to clarify the fate of [Roknabadi]," Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on Tuesday during the funeral procession of another diplomat, Hassan Hosseini Moqaddam, who perished in the incident.

"We will press on until all the missing are identified and transferred home," he added, ISNA reported.

Another deputy, Hassan Qashqavi, demanded Saudi officials cooperate to help account for over 116 Iranians still missing.

"This is not political. It is a brotherly request in the framework of consular relations," he said.

The crush took place after two large masses of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometers east of the holy city of Mecca, on their way to participate in the symbolic stoning of Satan in Jamarat.

Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed in the incident, but officials with Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including 464 Iranians, lost their lives in the stampede.

  Abduction Unlikely

Commenting on the possibility of Roknabadi's abduction in Saudi Arabia and his transfer to the occupied Palestine, Qashqavi said on Monday the issue was a speculation, adding that such a claim can be neither confirmed nor denied.

The deputy foreign minister for consular, parliamentary and expatriates affairs noted that the time and location of the Mina disaster, circumstances as well as individuals who were accompanying Roknabadi before he went missing do not confirm the likelihood of his abduction.

It is possible that those still missing in the tragic incident could be among the dead, or wounded, the diplomat said.

He added that it is even possible that certain Iranian pilgrims were arrested. The bodies of over 300 victims have so far been returned to the country.

Elsewhere, the intelligence minister said his ministry is collecting hard evidence to determine whether or not the incident occurred with "malice aforethought".

"The Intelligence Ministry has begun its work in this regard," Mahmoud Alavi said at a funeral service held in the southern city of Shiraz, Fars Province on Monday for a number of the pilgrims killed in the tragedy.

The vice president for legal affairs is also making arrangements to file a lawsuit with international legal bodies on behalf of the families of the victims to prompt proper action on the catastrophic event, Alavi added.