NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia firmly rejected Iran’s criticism of its handling of the Hajj pilgrimage Saturday after Tehran demanded an inquiry into a stampede that killed at least 769 people.
“I believe the Iranians should know better than to play politics with a tragedy that has befallen people who were performing their most sacred religious duty,” foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who like Jubeir is in New York for the UN General Assembly, has demanded an inquiry into Wednesday’s disaster, in which at least 136 Iranians died.
But Jubeir, delivering remarks along US Secretary of State John Kerry, insisted that Saudi Arabia was on top of the situation.
“The kingdom has had a long history of spending tremendous resources to care for the pilgrimage to ensure that the pilgrims who come there have a successful pilgrimage,” he said.
“And we will reveal the facts when they emerge. And we will not hold anything back. If mistakes were made, who made them will be held accountable,” Jubeir said.
“And we will make sure that we will learn from this and we will make sure that it doesn’t happen again. I want repeat again this is not a situation with which to play politics.”
“I would hope Iranian leaders would be more sensible and more thoughtful with regards to those who perished in this tragedy, and wait until we see the results of the investigation,” he added.
The dispute came amid tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the conflicts in Yemen and Syria that Riyadh views as a bid by Tehran to expand its influence in the region.