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RELIGION >Iran says it has finally received Saudi hajj invite

TEHRAN – Agence France-Presse

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Iran said Jan. 10, it had finally received an official invitation from Saudi Arabia for its pilgrims to attend this year’s hajj, two weeks after Riyadh announced it.

There was no official Iranian delegation at last year’s pilgrimage to the Muslim holy places after Sunni Saudi Arabia severed relations with Shiite Iran following the torching of its missions in Tehran and Mashhad by protesters last January.

It was the first time in three decades that Iranian pilgrims had been absent and the culmination of years of worsening relations over the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

The tone is “not that much different from past letters,” hajj affairs representative Ali Ghazi Askar said, adding that Iran would respond in the coming days.

“All matters regarding the hajj - including accommodation, food, medical affairs, transport, pilgrims’ security, banking and consular issues - must immediately be studied and appropriate solutions put forward.”

Negotiations for Iranian pilgrims to join last year’s hajj broke down over the questions of where their visas should be issued and how their security could be assured following the deaths of 464 in a stampede at the 2015 hajj.

The Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Dec. 30, 2016 that Saudi Pilgrimage Minister Mohammed Bentin had opened discussions with more than 80 countries, including Iran, on the arrangements for the 2017 hajj.

There was no immediate word on when or where the discussions might take place.

January/10/2017

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