Iran Responds to Saudi Hajj Invitation

Iran Responds to Saudi Hajj InvitationIran Responds to Saudi Hajj Invitation

Iran responded to an official invitation sent by Saudi Arabia to attend meetings to discuss the resumption of hajj pilgrimage for Iranians, a hajj official announced.

Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Ali Qazi-Askar, representative of the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in hajj and pilgrimage affairs, said Iran's Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Seyyed Reza Salehi Amiri had responded to the Saudi invitation by means of a letter addressed to Saudi Pilgrimage Minister Mohammed Bentin, ISNA reported on Tuesday as cited by Press TV.

The Iranian hajj official said Amiri in his letter communicated Iran's views and concerns to the Saudi side.

Qazi-Askar confirmed the receipt of the invitation last Monday.

In September 2015, a deadly human crush occurred during hajj rituals in Mina, near Mecca. Days into the incident, Saudi Arabia published a death toll of 770 but refused to update it despite the gradually surging fatality figures from individual countries whose nationals had been among the victims.

Iran said about 4,700 people, including over 465 of its nationals, lost their lives in the incident.

Earlier the same month, a massive construction crane had collapsed into Mecca's Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 pilgrims, including 11 Iranians, and injuring over 200 others, including 32 nationals from Iran.

Serious questions were raised about the competence of Saudi authorities to manage the hajj rituals in the wake of the incidents.

In the face of the Saudi refusal to guarantee the safety of Iranian pilgrims, officials in the Islamic Republic subsequently decided to halt pilgrimage over security concerns.

Saudi Arabia also unilaterally severed its diplomatic ties with Iran in January last year after Iranian protesters angered by the execution by Riyadh of eminent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr stormed its diplomatic premises in Tehran and Mashhad.

Qazi-Askar said, "We hope that the talks would yield results and preparations will be made for fulfilling the spiritual [religious] obligation of hajj."

He also hoped that the requisite measures would be taken so that the year would witness a "dignified and estimable" pilgrimage ceremony.

"In case preparations are made and conditions are provided, everyone is determined for the next hajj to take place," he said.

In the light of the fact that Riyadh has announced it would raise different quotas for this year's pilgrimage, Qazi-Askar asked all domestic parties to be prepared for the potential dispatch of 80,000 pilgrims.


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