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Iran pilgrims must skip hajj after Saudi dispute

After failing to reach a security agreement with Riyadh, Tehran has said no Iranians can make the pilgrimage this year. Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of making too many demands.

Iran accused Saudi Arabia of "blocking the path to Allah" on Sunday amidst a diplomatic row over Iranians making the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. The latest argument between the regional rivals erupted after two series of negotiations ended without being able to reach a deal on Friday.

"Saudi Arabia is opposing the absolute right of Iranians to go on the hajj and is blocking the path leading to Allah," said the Iranian Hajj Organization.

Riyadh countered that Tehran's security demands for its citizens had been "unacceptable."

"Iran has demanded the right to organize... demonstrations and to have privileges... that would cause chaos during the hajj. This is unacceptable," said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said.

He added that Iran had refused to agree to a memorandum "to guarantee the security and safety of pilgrims" despite 70 other countries signing the agreement.

"If it is about measures and procedures, I think we have done more than our duty to meet those needs, but it is the Iranians who have rejected things," Jubeir told a press conference during a visit from his British counterpart Philip Hammond.

Predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran have long been at odds, most recently by backing opposing sides in

Yemen's civil conflict.

This will be the first year in nearly three decades Iranians have not participated in the hajj. Relations between the two countries were broken off entirely for four years after clashes between pilgrims from Iran and Saudi security forces resulted in clashes that killed more than 400 people in 1987.

es/rc (AFP, dpa)

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