11/03/2009, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA - IRAN
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King Abdullah warns Khamenei: No to the "politicization" of the pilgrimage to Mecca

The "Guardian" of the holy places of Islam stresses that demonstrations or activities that threaten the safety of the faithful will not be tolerated. A veiled reference to the Supreme Leader of Iran’s call on Shiite pilgrims to demonstrate against the West and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Pakistan.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Saudi Arabia will not allow anyone to "disturb the atmosphere of Hajj, endangering the safety of pilgrims, or create divisions among Muslims." This was stated yesterday by King Abdullah, Custodian of the holy places of Islam, during a meeting of the executive. The reference, without specifically mentioning it was to Iran, which in recent days called on the Shiite faithful on their way to Mecca to promote demonstrations against the West and ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine.

On November 25, the Hajj begins, the pilgrimage to the most holy places of Islam, that every Muslim must make once in their life. Saudi authorities are concerned that the event - which attracts more than two million people to Mecca - will serve as a pretext to organize demonstrations and street protests that are banned by law in the Kingdom.

In a press release, the Arabian executive stresses that "the policy of the Kingdom does not allow anyone to interfere with the peaceful operations of the events Hajj and jeopardize the safety of pilgrims." Every move aimed at "creating divisions" among Muslims is forbidden, the faithful, added the government, should use the visit to the holy places to "establish a closer relationship with God through prayer, worship, meditation."  

The warning issued by Saudi authorities, without an explicit reference, is a response to the words spoken by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran.  He had asked Shiite pilgrims leaving for the Hajj to "show the clear intention of the Muslim nation to confront the attempts to undermine unity and progress." "The pilgrims can not ignore - added Khamenei - the events that are happening in the Muslim world. Today Iraq, Afghanistan, occupied Palestine, parts of Pakistan are under pressure from foreign troops". 

Previously, the Hajj has experienced serious accidents, which caused the deaths of hundreds of faithful. In 1987 a demonstration against the United States and Israel, suppressed by force by the Saudi police, left 402 people dead, most of them Iranian Shiites. Following the incident, Tehran imposed a boycott of three years on the pilgrimage.

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