Iran's President Hassan Rouhani at UN slams Saudi 'incompetence' over haj stampede

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani addresses the United Nations General Assembly,
President of Iran Hassan Rouhani addresses the United Nations General Assembly,PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday accused Saudi Arabia of incompetence over the deadly haj stampede and demanded an investigation of the disaster, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

A total of 769 pilgrims including 226 Iranians were killed in the worst tragedy to hit the haj in a quarter-century.

The pilgrims were taking part in a "grand and global spiritual gathering of the haj" but "fell victim to the incompetence and mismanagement of those in charge", said Mr Rouhani.

Iran has been deeply critical of Saudi Arabia over the tragedy, accusing its regional rival of serious safety lapses.

The Iranian president was to cut short his visit to New York and return to Teheran after his address to attend a repatriation ceremony for the bodies of the victims.

Mr Rouhani urged Riyadh to allow immediate consular access to quickly identify the bodies and ensure their return home.

He called for "an independent and precise investigation into the causes of this disaster and ways of preventing its repetition in the future".

The remarks came amid tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the conflicts in Yemen and Syria. Riyadh views Teheran as trying to use them to expand its influence in the region.

The wars in Syria and Yemen are among the key issues to be discussed during the UN General Assembly debate.

Mr Rouhani was making his first visit to the United Nations since the nuclear accord was reached with the so-called P5+1 - Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, plus Germany.