Ground not prepared for Iranians to perform annual Hajj pilgrimage: minister

Qom, May 12, IRNA – Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati said on Thursday that grounds are not prepared for the Iranian pilgrims s to perform this year's annual Hajj rituals.

Blaming the Saudi officials for preventing the Iranian pilgrims from performing this year's Hajj rituals, Jannati said, 'We did whatever we could but it was the Saudis who sabotaged. Now the time is lost.'

Speaking in a meeting, in the holy city of Qom, with Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili who is a senior religious Shia leader, the minister tentatively confirmed the cancellation of Hajj pilgrimage for Iranians this year.

He added that efforts for solving the problem of Hajj with the Saudi officials had begun nearly four months ago.

'When we wanted to send a delegation to follow up the issue, it took between one or two months to receive visas for them. After arriving in the Saudi Arabia at that time, the Iranian delegation was not properly treated. In the absence of an Iranian consular office in Saudi Arabia following the severance of ties between Tehran and Riyadh, Iran's proposals regarding visa application, air transport and security of pilgrims were not accepted by the Saudi officals.

Saudi officials made no promises about issuing visa for the Iranian pilgrims and said that they should go to a third country to receive a Saudi visa and this showed that the ground is not prepared for performing Hajj pilgrimage by Iranians this year.'

Iran and Saudi Arabi broke off relations following Riyadh's brutal assassination of a prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Baqer Nimr al-Nimr and the subsequent storming of two Saudi diplomatic sites in Iran by angry protesters.

Meanwhile a large number of Iranian Hajj pilgrims was killed in a Hajj tragedy on 24 September 2015 when a crowd collapse caused the deaths of at least thousands of pilgrims who were suffocated or crushed during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mina, Mecca, making it the deadliest Hajj disaster in history.

The disaster initiated an international wave to condemn the incompetence and mismanagement of the Saudi officials in administrating Muslims largest annual ritual.

Some 464 Iranians were confirmed dead in the tragic event.