TEHRAN: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued an angry rebuke to "blasphemous" regional rival Saudi Arabia on Monday, calling on the Muslim world to question its management of Islam's holiest sites.
"Because of Saudi rulers' oppressive behaviour towards God's guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of Hajj," Khamenei said in a statement published on his website, referring to Makkah and Madina.
Saudi prince’s convoy triggered Hajj stampede: report
He published the comments ahead of this month's annual Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah in Saudi Arabia. Some 60,000 Iranians took part last year, but have been effectively barred from this year's event after negotiations between the two countries fell apart.
Khamenei accused Saudi Arabia's ruling family, who are the custodians of Islam's holiest sites, of politicising the pilgrimage, and turning themselves into "small and puny Satans who tremble for fear of jeopardising the interests of the Great Satan (the United States)."
"Saudi rulers... who have blocked the proud and faithful Iranian pilgrims' path to the Beloved's House, are disgraced and misguided people who think their survival on the throne of oppression is dependent on defending the arrogant powers of the world, on alliances with Zionism and the US and on fulfilling their demands," he wrote.
Iran not to send Hajj pilgrims, blames Saudi
This month's Hajj will be the first time in almost three decades that Iranian pilgrims have not participated. Khamenei was also fiercely critical of the Saudi response to a deadly stampede during last year's Hajj, which killed some 2,300 foreign pilgrims, including an estimated 464 Iranians.
"Instead of apology and remorse and judicial prosecution of those who were directly at fault in that horrifying event, Saudi rulers -- with utmost shamelessness and insolence -- refused to allow the formation of an international Islamic fact-finding committee," he said.