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Saudi mustn’t allow Hajj tragedy to become political issue: Iran

28 November 2015 8:58



Iran says Saudi Arabia must not allow the deadly human crush during this year’s Hajj rituals in Mina, near the holy Saudi city of Mecca, to turn into “a major political issue.”

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaber-Ansari made the remarks while speaking to reporters in the capital, Tehran, on Friday on the sidelines of a funeral procession held for the former Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, who died in the Mina incident.

Iranians carry the coffin of the former Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, who died in the September Mina crush, in Tehran on November 27, 2015. © ISNA

Roknabadi had been missing since the September 24 crush in Saudi Arabia until recently, when his body was identified after DNA testing. The Iranian diplomat’s body was returned to the capital early on Friday and was laid to rest after the funeral procession later in the day.

“We hope that cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia will continue to determine the fate of others who went missing [in Mina] and that [Riyadh] does not turn this matter into a major political issue,” Jaber-Ansari said.

He added that the fate of some missing Iranians has not been determined yet, saying, “The Saudi government has the humanitarian, political and legal responsibility” in this regard.

Jaber-Ansari emphasized that Iran would do all it has in power, within the framework of its relations with Saudi Arabia and its regional and international potential, to restore the rights of the victims and those missing in the Mina crush and to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.

The Iranian spokesperson said the Islamic Republic would adopt necessary political and legal follow-up measures over the Hajj tragedy.

The crush in Saudi Arabia occurred when two large masses of pilgrims were directed by Saudi authorities toward one another and fused at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometers east of the holy city of Mecca, as they were on their way to participate in the symbolic stoning of Satan in Jamarat.

The photo shows bodies of a number of pilgrims killed in a crush during Hajj rituals in Mina, Saudi Arabia, on September 24, 2015. ©AFP

Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed in Mina, but officials with Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including 462 Iranians, lost their lives in the tragedy. The number of the Iranian fatalities exceeds that of other countries.

Iran has censured Saudi Arabia for failing to responsibly carry out its duties during Hajj, saying Riyadh’s incompetence in handling safety at the rituals caused the deadly incident.

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