DUBAI, Sept 5 Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei renewed criticism of Saudi Arabia over how it runs
the haj after a crush last year killed hundreds of pilgrims, and
suggested Muslim countries think about ending Riyadh's control
of the annual pilgrimage.
"Because of these (Saudi) rulers' oppressive behaviour
towards God's guests (pilgrims), the world of Islam must
fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places
and the issue of haj," Khamenei said in a message carried by his
Website and Iran's state media.
"They must not let those rulers escape responsibility for
the crimes they have caused throughout the world of Islam,"
Khamenei said, listing Saudi Arabia's involvement in conflicts
in areas including Iraq, Yemen and Syria on the side of forces
Custodian of Islam's most revered places in Mecca and
Medina, Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on organising haj,
one of the five pillars of Islam which every able-bodied Muslim
who can afford to is obliged to undertake at least once.
Its prestige was damaged by the 2015 disaster, in which
Riyadh said 769 pilgrims were killed - the highest haj death
toll since a crush in 1990. Counts of fatalities by countries
who repatriated bodies showed that over 2,000 people may have
died in the crush, more than 400 of them Iranians.
Iran, Saudi Arabia's main regional rival, blamed the
disaster on organisers' incompetence. Pilgrims from Iran will be
unable to attend haj, which starts on Sept. 11, this year after
talks between the two countries on arrangements broke down in
An official Saudi inquiry has yet to be published, but
authorities suggested at the time some pilgrims ignored crowd
Riyadh accuses Tehran of destabilizing Arab states and
spreading sectarianism by backing militias in Syria, Lebanon,
Iraq and Yemen and fomenting unrest in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Iran denies those charges.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Richard Balmforth)