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Saudi Arabia rejected raising hajj quotas: Report

Published on Sep 19, 2012 6:09 PM
A Kashmiri Haj pilgrim prays as he walks in between buses along with other pilgrims during their departure for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, in Srinagar Sept 17, 2012.  -- PHOTO: REUTERS

RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi Arabia has rejected requests by 40 countries to increase their hajj quota this year because of development projects now under way in the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, local dailies said on Wednesday.

"The ministry has apologised to all countries which had asked to increase the number of their pilgrims this year... (because of) the giant development projects in Mecca and Medina which make it difficult to accommodate more numbers," hajj minister Bandar al-Hajjar was reported as saying.

Every Muslim country has a hajj quota of 1,000 pilgrims per million inhabitants. The quota system was imposed after an attempt by Saudi police to stifle a demonstration by Iranian pilgrims holding an anti-US and anti-Israel protest in 1987, which sparked clashes in which 402 people died including 275 Iranians.

Last year, nearly three million Muslim pilgrims performed the hajj, the world's largest annual gathering. The authorities had not indicated that they would be able to accommodate more pilgrims this year.

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