Hajj stampede: Saudi rejects Iranian criticism

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister firmly rejected Iran’s criticism of its handling of the hajj pilgrimage

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Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Saturday firmly rejected Iran’s criticism of its handling of the Hajj pilgrimage after Tehran demanded an inquiry into a stampede that killed at least 769 people.

"I believe the Iranians should know better than to play politics with a tragedy that has befallen people who were performing their most sacred religious duty," foreign minister Adel al-Jubair said.

Iran's President Hassan Rowhani, who is also in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, has demanded an inquiry into Wednesday's disaster, in which at least 136 Iranians died.

But Jubair, delivering remarks along U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, insisted that Saudi Arabia was on top of the situation.

"The kingdom has had a long history of spending tremendous resources to care for the pilgrimage to ensure that the pilgrims who come there have a successful pilgrimage," he said.

"And we will reveal the facts when they emerge. And we will not hold anything back. If mistakes were made, who made them will be held accountable," Jubair said.

"And we will make sure that we will learn from this and we will make sure that it doesn't happen again. I want repeat again this is not a situation with which to play politics.

"I would hope Iranian leaders would be more sensible and more thoughtful with regards to those who perished in this tragedy, and wait until we see the results of the investigation."

The death toll from Thursday’s deadly stampede outside the holy city of Makkah during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage climbed to 769, the Saudi Health Minister Khaled Al-Faleh said earlier on Saturday.


The known number of injured now stands at 934, he said in a press conference adding that the Hajj season was void of any epidemics or disease.

Investigations to determine the cause behind the crush are still ongoing.

Prominent Iranian writer and academic Sadegh Zibakalam criticized statements made by Iranian officials on the Mina incident saying that they stemmed out of events in Syria and Yemen.

“As opposed to other Muslims, ours were the only reactions aimed at pre-judging who is responsible for the Mina tragedy,” he was quoted by Al Arabiya.net as saying.

“The response [from Iranian officials] was based on unleashing anti-Arab sentiment that many Iranians bear. The horrible Mina incident has allowed Iranians to unload their anger onto Arabs,” he added.

A report in Asharq Al Awsat newspaper this week said 300 Iranian pilgrims were moving in the opposite direction against “large convoys” on Street 204 heading to the site where ritual of stoning the devil is performed before the crush happened.

Quoting an unnamed source, the paper said that the almost 300 pilgrims did not wait at the site upon completion of the ritual as mandated by Hajj organizers. The worshipers instead moved out onto Street 204 as other groups made their way into the site, the report, cited by Al Arabiya.Net said.

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