Iran demands role in haj stampede inquiry

Iranian protesters shout slogans and hold anti-US signs during a demonstration against Saudi Arabia.
Iranian protesters shout slogans and hold anti-US signs during a demonstration against Saudi Arabia.AFP

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran demanded Friday that it and other affected countries be represented in the Saudi investigation into the stampede that killed more than 700 pilgrims, including 131 Iranians, at this year's haj.

"Countries such as Iran, which have suffered so much, should be represented in the inquiry to determine the causes of the catastrophe and to gain assurances that it will not be repeated in the future," First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri said after an extraordinary session of the Cabinet.

"There is no question about the poor management" of the pilgrimage and the "inexperience of security personnel" on the ground at the time, he added.

"The Saudi government is responsible and must respond.

Meanwhile, Teheran summoned the Riyadh's charge d'affaires to ask for Saudi Arabia to cooperate in repatriating the bodies of Iranian victims of Thursday's stampede.

The state television website said Iran asked the "Saudi government to immediately cooperate to allow for the bodies of killed pilgrims to be repatriated".

Said Ohadi, head of Iran's haj organisation, has claimed the death toll is higher than Riyadh has officially announced.

"Some 1,500 people were killed in the disaster but the toll could well reach 2,000 according to reliable sources," Iranian news agencies quoted him as saying.

"Up to 365 Iranian pilgrims are still missing but this doesn't necessarily mean they are dead," he added.