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Saudi Arabia says Iran refused to sign Haj agreement 

Riyadh, May 30 (IANS) Saudi Arabia has blamed Iran for refusing to sign an agreement that would have allowed tens of thousands of Iranian citizens to travel to the kingdom for the annual Muslim pilgrimage of Haj amid souring diplomatic ties between the regional rivals.

Iran on Sunday announced that its citizens won’t travel to the Saudi cities of Makkah and Medina for the Haj, which is taking place in September.

The decision came after the two sides failed to resolve the issue over how Iranians would be able to travel to Saudi Arabia after Riyadh severed diplomatic ties with Iran in January.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in a statement issued here said the two sides held several round of talks to resolve the issue but the Iranian delegation left the kingdom without signing the “minutes of arrangement” that would have facilitated Iranians to travel to Makkah and perform the hajj.

The Saudi government “has stressed its categorical rejection to politicise the Haj rituals”, the statement said.

“They (the Iran government) will be responsible in front of Allah Almighty and its people for the inability of the Iranian citizens to perform Haj for this year.”

The unprecedented Iranian decision would mean that tens of thousands of its citizens won’t be able to make their spiritual journey this year. The annual pilgrimage is one of the five main pillars of Islam and every Muslim, who can afford the journey, is duty bound to visit Makkah once in a lifetime.

Ties frayed between the two sides after attacks on Saudi diplomatic compounds in Iran by people angry with the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric and activist in January this year.

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