16 January 2005 -- Saudi Arabian officials have said the country is ready to host more than 2 million pilgrims at this year's hajj, which begins on 18 January.
Saudi officials said they are tightening security and safety to ensure the annual Muslim rite passes without incident.
The authorities said they want to thwart possible attacks by Al-Qaeda, which has waged a campaign of violence in the kingdom. They are also seeking to prevent crowd stampedes of the kind that killed 250 people during the annual pilgrimage in 2004.
The country's Interior Ministry said it is mobilizing more than 50,000 security forces to protect the pilgrimage.