Iranians hope Ahmadinejad Haj will help Arab ties

Iranians voiced hope that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's involvement in the pilgrimage will help to repair ties between the Islamic republic and its Arab neighbours.

Iranians hope Ahmadinejad Haj will help Arab ties

Iranians who joined the throngs of Muslims "stoning Satan" during the Haj to Saudi Arabia voiced hope on Thursday that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's involvement in the pilgrimage will help to repair ties between the Islamic republic and its Arab neighbours.

"Ahmadinejad's Haj pilgrimage, since it comes at the invitation of the Saudi king, shows that Muslim nations are supporting one another in times of need against some greedy nations," an Iranian teacher who identified herself as Shokouh said as she hurled pebbles at the pillars symbolising the devil in the holy city of Mina.

Among the almost 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims in Saudi Arabia this year was Ahmadinejad, the Iranian leader who was invited by King Abdullah to become the first president of the Islamic republic to take part in the Haj.

His pilgrimage has an added political significance because of the sometimes rocky relations between Shiite Iran and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, both key players in the turbulent Middle East.

"Having ties with big Arab nations is a sign of unity among Muslims, and the West will understand that it can not divide between Shiites and Sunnis," said Hossein, a trader from Mashhad in northeastern Iran.

An Iranian demonstration during the Haj in 1987 led to Tehran and Riyadh severing diplomatic relations. Security forces tried to break up the protest and 402 people, including 275 Iranians, were killed.

Iranians were barred from the Haj until 1991, and this year more than 102,000 embarked on the pilgrimage out of total of 2.45 million who flocked to Islam's holiest sites in Saudi Arabia.

"After we resumed ties, and during the first three years the Saudis allowedus to send 120,000 Hajis. Nowadays the quotas are given to the Islamic nations based on the size of their population," an Iranian Haj official said.

Iran has found itself increasingly isolated on the international scene since Ahmadinejad took power in 2005, particularly over its nuclear programme that the West claims could be a cover for a covert atomic weapons drive.

"I personally hope that President Ahmadinejad will be able to successfully implement his plans and improve Iran's international situation (as a result of the pilgrimage," said university student Ali Rahmati.

"Iran is strongly against the US way of managing the world. We will all stand against it," Ahmadinejad told Iranian pilgrims.

"In my discussion with the King Abdullah we discussed different ways to consolidate the brotherly relations among the Muslim nations," he was quoted as saying by the Iranian media covering his trip.

He described Tehran's relations with Riyadh as "friendly," adding: "The message of my presence here is boosting ties among Islamic nations."


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Aralık 2007, 12:56
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