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Saudi Arabia: Iran blocking its own Haj pilgrims

quotesJEDDAH: The Council of Ministers said Iran is attempting to politicize the Haj by refusing to sign an agreement mandatory for all countries seeking to send pilgrims on the holy journey.

The Cabinet meeting, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Monday afternoon, was briefed about the controversy arising from a meeting last week between an Iranian Haj delegation and the Saudi Haj and Umrah Ministry, said Culture and Information Minister Adel Al-Toraifi in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Al-Toraifi said that the Iranian delegation had refused to sign the agreement outlining the arrangements that would be made for the pilgrims, in reference to accommodation, visa and other issues.

This is a requirement for all countries sending pilgrims, he said.
He said that there was no question that the Kingdom wanted to refuse entry to Iranian pilgrims.

The country was honored to be hosting all pilgrims from around the world. He said the Iranian government would now have to face Almighty Allah and the world to explain why its representatives failed to sign the minutes of the meeting with the Haj and Umrah Ministry.
Al-Toraifi said the aim of the Iranian delegation was to politicize the Haj and try to create the impression that the Kingdom was at fault.

The Cabinet rejected these attempts and stated that it has been doing everything in its power to provide quality services for pilgrims, he said.

Arab News reported last week that the Iranians had sought to have visas issued in Iran for their pilgrims. The Kingdom was not prepared to do this because it had closed it missions in that country after they were attacked. The Kingdom had stated that the visas would be issued from Dubai.

At the outset of the session, King Salman had briefed the Cabinet on a message received from King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, a telephone call received from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and the results of his meetings with US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Central Command Commander General Joseph Votel.

Al-Toraifi said that the Cabinet was briefed on a number of regional and international reports, and reiterated it was committed to resolve conflicts peacefully, as expressed at a recent UN meeting. The government would also continue to support needy countries around the world.

He said the ministers took several decisions, including those based on reports from the Shoura Council, including that the Health Ministry provide imported milk free to children needing medical treatment up to 24 months in line with the requirements of the Saudi Health Council and Health Insurance Council.

It was also decided that all bodies involved must work out the quality specifications for the milk provided, and ensure that the products are not labeled with the name of the manufacturer. There should also be a campaign to promote breastfeeding in the country.

The Cabinet authorized Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss with China an agreement to set up a high-level joint committee; the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to reach a labor cooperation pact with South Korea; and the Ministry of Education to reach an agreement with Belarus.

The Cabinet also approved the setting up of the Decision-Making Support Center, which would monitor, analyze and write reports on possible actions related to local, regional and international developments.

A further decision taken was the approval for the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center to issue regulations about workers at the facility, provided this does not result in additional costs.


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