World Bulletin / News Desk
Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of preventing Iranian pilgrims from performing the annual Hajj pilgrimage and "politicizing" the ritual.
Saudi Crown Prince and Interior Minister Muhammad bin Nayef said Monday that the Saudi authorities would not allow any "violations" during the pilgrimage.
"Saudi Arabia will not tolerate any violations that disturb security or affect the safety of pilgrims, whether by Iran or by any other party," he said in statements carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
He went on to assert that the Saudi authorities were extending all facilities to Iranian nationals who wished to perform the pilgrimage.
"The Iranian authorities are the ones who don’t want to send their pilgrims to Hajj for their own reasons as part of their effort to politicize the ritual," he said.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for his part, accused Saudi Arabia of "murdering" Iranian pilgrims, in reference to last year’s Hajj stampede near Mecca in which hundreds of pilgrims -- including many Iranians -- were killed.
"The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured along with the dead in containers instead of providing medical treatment and helping them, or at least quenching their thirst," he said via Twitter.
"They murdered them," he added.
Last year, hundreds of pilgrims were killed in a deadly Hajj stampede near Mecca.
Tehran later said most of the fatalities had been Iranian nationals, blaming the tragedy on Saudi mismanagement.
Relations remain tense between Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, long considered regional arch-rivals.
In April, Riyadh and Tehran failed to agree on the parameters governing the Hajj pilgrimage, which all Muslims are obliged to perform at least once in their lives.
The dispute escalated after Tehran demanded that Iranian pilgrims be allowed to perform certain practices -- forbidden by the Saudi authorities -- during the Hajj.
The Saudi authorities, for their part, say such practices, which include gatherings of Shia worshipers during the Hajj ritual, "hinder the movement of other pilgrims".
The practices, however, were deemed political and religious obligations by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989), the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Saudi Arabia severed official ties with Iran early this year after its diplomatic missions in the Iranian cities of Tehran and Mashhad were attacked by protesters following the execution of a prominent Shia cleric by the Saudi authorities.