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Iran Will Not Send Pilgrims To Saudi Arabia For Hajj

Iran will not send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year for the annual hajj pilgrimage, the latest sign of tensions between the two archrivals.

Iran said Saudi "incompetence" caused a deadly stampede during the hajj in September that killed at least 2,426 people. Tehran said the disaster killed 464 Iranian pilgrims.

Ali Jannati, Iran's minister of culture, said talks between Tehran and Riyadh had been trying to "resolve the issue" of security for months, but failed to make any headway.

"The sabotage is coming from the Saudis," Jannati was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency.

"They did not accept our proposals concerning the issuing visas or security and transport of the Iranian pilgrims."

The Saudi minister for the hajj, Mohammed Bintin, said the Iranians had "insisted on a number of unacceptable demands."

Tensions have escalated between Saudi Arabia and Iran in recent months -- particularly in January, when Iranian protesters ransacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and set fires inside after Saudi authorities executed an outspoken Shi'ite cleric.

As a result, Riyadh cut diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP