Saudi officials have dismissed Iran’s criticism of the deadly hajj stampede, in which several hundred Muslim pilgrims died. Previously, Iran vowed international legal action against its regional rivals.
The Iranians “should know better than to play politics with a tragedy”, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told reporters on Saturday.
Riyadh has ordered an investigation into the incident that killed 769 people on Thursday, during the annual hajj pilgrimage that draws millions of Muslim pilgrims from around the world.
The kingdom “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,” Al-Jubeir said while meeting the US Secretary of State John Kerry in New York.
“And we will make sure that we will learn from this and we will make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” the minister added, urging Iranian leaders to wait for the investigation results.
Earlier on Saturday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called for an inquiry into the incident while addressing a UN development summit. Tehran also vowed international legal action against the Saudis over the deadly stampede.
Suing the Saudi royals
Iran lost at least 136 of its citizens in the incident, more than any other nation. Hundreds of nationals are still missing, Iranian state TV reports.
“It is not only incompetence, but a crime” Iran’s State Prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday.
Saudi authorities blocked a road used by hajj pilgrims to let a royal convoy pass through, and caused the stampede in doing so, Raisi told state TV.
“They have to know that we will pursue the trial of Al-Saud for the crime they have committed against the hajj pilgrims through international courts and organizations,” Raisi said, refering to the Saudi royal family.
At the same time, a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman told the AP news agency that the VIP convoy passed through a different part of town and had nothing to do with the incident.
Still no visa
Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia are a state party to the International Criminal Court, and only the court’s prosecutor can file charges. However, Iran’s accusations could increase international pressure on the Saudis and heighten tensions between the regional rivals.
The Iranian delegation is still waiting for visas to enter Saudi Arabia, in order to start overseeing the treatment of injured Iranians and the repatriation of the remains of victims of the stampede, according to Iranian state television.
dj/lw (AFP, AP, Reuters)