Manama: A much-anticipated agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran regarding the pilgrimage arrangements for Iranian pilgrims was not signed on Thursday as planned after the Iranian delegation failed to show up.

The accord on arrangements related to consular services, travels and visas was reached following lengthy talks on Wednesday and the two sides said they would sign it formally on Thursday in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

However, as officials from the Saudi pilgrimage ministry waiting for the Iranian delegation to show up in the morning, they were informed that the Iranians would be late after deciding to perform Umrah in Makkah, 70 kilometres away, London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat reported on Friday

The drive from Jeddah to Makkah usually takes 45 minutes and the Umrah rituals, all performed inside the Grand Mosque, take between two and three hours depending on how crowded the mosque is.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been locked in a dispute over the issue of Iranians performing Haj, the fifth ritual of Islam amid Iranian demands for special arrangements and a Saudi insistence on applying a no-derogation rule.

Iran reacted by claiming that the Saudi authorities were preventing its nationals from performing Haj… see more

source: gulfnews