Published: Sun, March 19, 2017
Health | By Bessie Ortiz

Iran, Saudi Arabia come to terms regarding Hajj pilgrimage

Iran dismissed as "nonsense" comments made after U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis met with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that condemned Tehran's destabilising regional influence, state news agency IRNA reported on Friday.

The arrangements were completed after a meeting with an Iranian delegation on February 23, Saudi Arabia's official SPA news agency said.

For the first time in almost three decades, Iran's pilgrims, almost 60,000, did not attend the hajj in 2016 after the two countries failed to agree on security and logistics.

He said the agreements worth almost $65 billion and signed by the two sides embodies promising future aspects of cooperation between the two countries.

Custodian of Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia organises the annual Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam which every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to is obliged to undertake at least once in a lifetime.

In the aftermath of the disaster, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the Saudi authorities of "murdering" pilgrims who had been caught up in the deadly stampede.

"Both countries are willing to raise their level of cooperation in the oil sector, including supplying Saudi oil to the continuously growing Chinese market", the two countries said in a joint statement issued on Saturday (18 March).

Saudi Arabia repeatedly accuses Iran of fuelling conflicts by supporting armed Shia movements in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain.

Already strained over a list of differences, relations between the two countries took a nosedive after the 2015 hajj, when a human crush killed more than 2,400 pilgrims, including more than 464 Iranians in Mina.

Iran rejects accusations of regional aggression and says Saudi Arabia must stop its alleged support for Sunni "terrorist" groups.

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