The Levant News — Iranian president Hassan Rouhani used a major United Nations speech on Saturday to demand an investigation into a crush that killed more than 750 people at the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
His remarks came after Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric, the grand mufti, appeared to absolve the authorities of blame for the stampede at Mecca.
“You are not responsible for what happened,” grand mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh was quoted by the official Saudi press agency, SPA, as telling the interior minister, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.
“As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable,” he added during the meeting, reported to have happened on Friday night.
On Saturday, the Saudi health ministry said on Twitter that the death toll of the hajj disaster stood at 769 pilgrims killed and 934 injured, updating previous figures. It did not offer nationalities for the dead and injured, but Tehran says more than 130 of the dead were Iranians.
The fact that Rouhani used a UN summit meeting on global development goals to reiterate his country’s outrage was a sign that it does not intend to tone down criticism of its regional rival Saudi Arabia. Both Iran and the Saudis see themselves as leaders in the Muslim world.
In his speech to the 193-nation UN General Assembly, Rouhani emphasized the need for an investigation into “the causes of this incident and other similar incidents in this year’s hajj”, Reuters reported. He describe the crush as “heart-rending”.
Speaking to reporters before a meeting with US secretary of state John Kerry, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif repeated that “we need to address the disastrous event in Saudi Arabia”.
Saudi Arabia on Friday suggested pilgrims ignoring crowd control rules bore some blame for the incident. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ordered a review of hajj plans, and Health Minister Khalid al-Falih said an investigation would be conducted.
Iran has repeatedly expressed outrage at the deaths of more than 130 of its nationals at the world’s largest annual gathering of people.
Rouhani suggested on Friday the tragedy might have been a result of the Saudis transferring experienced troops to Yemen to fight Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, a military campaign that Tehran has repeatedly criticized.
Source: The Guardian