Iran scraps pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia blamed
TEHERAN • Iran has said that its pilgrims will miss the haj pilgrimage this year because Saudi Arabia, the custodian of Islam's holiest sites, was "blocking the path to Allah".
"Saudi Arabia is opposing the absolute right of Iranians to go on the haj," the Iran's haj organisation said yesterday. The Saudi side had failed to respond to Iranian demands over "the security and respect" of its pilgrims to Mecca, it added.
Iran's Culture Minister Ali Jannati said the country's pilgrims would miss out "after two series of negotiations without any results because of obstacles raised by the Saudis".
Ukraine fire kills 17 in care home for elderly
KIEV • Seventeen people have been killed after a fire broke out in a residential building housing elderly people in a village near Kiev, Ukraine's state emergency service said.
The fire broke out yesterday in the early hours, it said, adding that the privately owned two-storey building housed 35 people in the village of Litochky, 37km north-east of Kiev. "Emergency services units saved 18 people," it said.
Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman has called for a probe, a statement on the government website said.
A statement on the police website said a criminal case had been opened relating to a suspected violation of fire-safety law.
Jordan King appoints PM to oversee elections
AMMAN • Jordan's King Abdullah has appointed veteran politician Hani Mulqi as prime minister after dissolving Parliament by royal decree yesterday, following the end of its four-year term, and charged him with conducting new elections by October.
The King accepted Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour's resignation, as is customary under the Constitution, before appointing an interim head of government. Under the constitutional rules, the elections should be held within four months.