Report: Iran suspends hajj trips to Saudi Arabia amid spat – AP
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran suspended all minor hajj trips to Saudi Arabia on Monday amid growing diplomatic tensions between the two countries, state television reported.
Iran’s Culture Ministry made the decision over alleged abuse suffered by two male Iranian pilgrims traveling through Saudi’s Jeddah airport in March, the station reported.
Culture Ministry spokesman Hossein Nooshabadi told state TV that the minor hajj would be suspended until the Saudi government “applies a strong attitude” to the case. He also said “capital punishment” should apply to the case, without offering specifics about the allegations.
The alleged abuse, the details of which authorities have not publicly discussed, has sparked unauthorized protests at the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on Saturday.
Some 500,000 Iranians visit Saudi Arabia each year for the minor hajj, which involves pilgrims visiting Mecca and Medina, two of Islam’s holiest sites. Some 100,000 Iranian pilgrims annually travel to Saudi Arabia for the main hajj season.
Tensions between Shiite power Iran and the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been strained amid Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen targeting Shiite rebels known as Houthis there. The U.S., Western countries and Sunni Arab nations involved in the Saudi-led coalition have accused Iran of supporting the Houthis militarily, something both the rebels and the Islamic Republic deny.