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Iran, Saudis Suspend Spat To Discuss Hajj Pilgrimage Next Week


Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of hajj pilgrims who were killed in a stampede in Mecca last year.

Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of hajj pilgrims who were killed in a stampede in Mecca last year.

An Iranian delegation will travel next week to Saudi Arabia to discuss arrangements for the hajj pilgrimage, in the first dialogue between the rival powers since Riyadh cut off relations with Tehran.

The Saudis severed ties with Iran on January 3 after its missions in Tehran and Mashhad were set on fire by mobs outraged by the kingdom's execution of a prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric.

A major spike in tensions also was caused by the death of thousands of pilgrims in a stampede at last year's hajj, including 464 Iranians.

The head of Iran's hajj organization, Said Ohadi, revealed the plans to send a negotiating team to Riyadh to state media late on April 6.

This year's pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca, which all Muslims are expected to perform at least once in their lifetime, will occur in September.

Ohadi said the two sides hope to sign an agreement for sending Iranian pilgrims, as in previous years.

He said the talks will also address last year's stampede, which Iran blamed on Saudi mismanagement.

So far, the Riyadh government has taken no action to compensate the families of Iranian victims, he said.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP
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