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Saudi says will issue haj visas to Iranian expatriates

Saudi says will issue haj visas to Iranian expatriates

Tehran announced earlier this year that it would not send pilgrims for haj

Saudi Arabia will grant visas to Iranian expatriates to perform haj this year despite Tehran refusing to send its pilgrims, according to reports.

A source at the Ministry of Haj and Umrah told Arab News that the kingdom will issue haj visas for Iranians residing outside the country.

The source added a number of expatriate Iranians had applied for haj visas via travel and tourism agents – primarily in Europe.

“Every new Haj season, about 10 to 12 offices are allocated to provide field services to the Iranian pilgrims who come via the travel and tourism firms around the world,” the source said.

Meanwhile Saudi foreign ministry spokesman Osama Al-Nugali said the ministry had “nothing to do” with the matter.

“The foreign ministry’s role is restricted to executing authorised procedures,” he added.

Iranians will be unable to perform haj this year because Tehran’s haj organising committee refused to sign a deal with Saudi in May regarding arrangements for the pilgrimage.

Read more: Iranians will be unable to perform haj this year

Saudi’s ministry of Haj and Umrah said in a statement at the time that the Iranian delegation was offered a number of solutions for all the issues it raised.

The ministry said it offered to issue visas electronically from inside Iran according to the mechanism agreed by the Saudi foreign ministry.

It also agreed to transport pilgrims equally between the Saudi national carrier and Iranian national carrier, approving the Iranian request to represent it diplomatically through the Swiss embassy in order to take care of Iranian pilgrims’ interests.

However, despite long meetings, the Iranian mission to Saudi refused to sign the deal, the Saudi ministry said.

It also said that the kingdom “has stressed its categorical rejection to politicise the haj rituals.”

Iran’s main haj official Saeed Ohadi previously told Press TV that Tehran would not send pilgrims to Saudi unless their safety was ensured.

More than 2,400 pilgrims from more than 30 countries are reported to have died during a stampede during the haj last year.

The majority of pilgrims who died – estimated at 461 by Iranian officials – came from Iran.

Read more: Iran’s leader condemns Saudi over haj crush, demands bodies of pilgrims

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