Ayatollah Khamenei has criticized Saudi Arabia and called on the Muslim world to challenge the country's control of Muslim pilgrimage sites. Iranian citizens have been prohibited from attending this year's hajj.
"Saudi rulers... who have blocked the proud and faithful Iranian pilgrims' path to the Beloved's House are disgraced and misguided people who think their survival on the throne of oppression is dependent on defending the arrogant powers of the world, on alliances with Zionism and the US," Khamenei said.
He also accused Saudi Arabia's ruling Saud family - the custodians of Mecca and Medina - of politicizing the traditional Muslim pilgrimage or hajj, which will start at the end of this week. "Because of Saudi rulers' oppressive behaviour towards God's guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and hajj," Khamenei said.
He also addressed the death of 2,300 pilgrims, including 464 Iranians in last year's haj stampede, accusing Saudi leaders of refusing to allow an international fact-finding committee to look into the matter. "The hesitation and failure to rescue the half-dead and injured people... is also obvious and incontrovertible... They murdered them," the leader wrote on his website.
Iranians have been barred from participating in this year's hajj after talks on logistics and security were unsuccessful. Riyadh said Teheran made "unacceptable" demands, including the right to organize demonstrations that could get unruly.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef said Iran wanted to "politicize hajj and convert it into an occasion to violate the teachings of Islam, through shouting slogans and disturbing the security of pilgrims," Saudi Press Agency reported.
Iran is opposed to the Saudi monarchy's closeness with the United States and Israel. Tensions between the two countries peaked this year in January, when Riyadh executed a prominent Shiite cleric. In the protests that followed, Iranian demonstrators torched the Saudi embassy and a consulate. Riyadh broke ties with Teheran following the incident.
mg/jil (AFP, Reuters)