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Saudi Arabia invites rival Iran for talks on Haj return

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has invited regional rival Iran to discuss a return of its nationals to next year’s Haj after Iranians were excluded from the pilgrimage following a major diplomatic row, reports said on Friday.

The Al-Hayat daily reported that Riyadh’s pilgrims minister Mohammed Bentin had opened discussions with more than 80 countries, including Iran, to work out the details of the 2017 Haj.

“Iran’s Haj delegation was invited to come to the kingdom” for preparations, the paper said.

The Arab News daily said Riyadh would welcome pilgrims for Haj and the smaller umrah rite “irrespective of their nationalities or sectarian affiliations, including Iranian pilgrims”.

More than 1.8 million faithful took part in this year’s Haj, but Iranians stayed at home after tensions between Riyadh and Tehran boiled over following a deadly stampede during the 2015 pilgrimage.

Iran says it lost 464 people in the crush outside Makkah.

They were among more than 2,300 people killed in the worst ever disaster to strike the Haj.

Shia Iran and predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia are at odds over a raft of regional issues, notably the conflicts in Syria and Yemen in which they support opposing sides.

Riyadh cut ties with Tehran in January after Iranian demonstrators torched its embassy and a consulate following its execution of a prominent Shia cleric.

courtesy :dawn news

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