The Ministry of Hajj has refuted comments made yesterday by outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, who criticized Saudi Arabia for not facilitating the entrance of Iraqi pilgrims wishing to perform the Hajj and for not considering that increasing number of Iraqis would wish to perform the pilgrimage following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The Ministry dismissed Al-Jaafari’s remarks as a political ploy to improve his flagging political image in Iraq.
Al-Jaafari led his country’s Hajj mission before being appointed prime minister, and he knows the high level of understanding as well as the unprecedented efforts and flexibility the Kingdom has shown in facilitating pilgrimage matters for Iraqis, the Ministry said. The official quota of Iraqis who permitted to come to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj has increased over 40 percent in the last two years – more than double than under Saddam Hussein – in keeping with an agreement of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) foreign ministers who fixed the number at one thousand pilgrims per million of a country’s Muslim population, the Ministry said.
In addition, the Ministry commented that the Kingdom has accepted exaggerated population figures for Iraq, and noted the Iraqi authorities’ lack of fairness in distributing the quota among the Iraqi people or in issuing travel documents. With these actions, Iraqi authorities have subjected potential Iraqi pilgrims to regional, racial and sectarian considerations, the Ministry added.
The Kingdom has more than once generously cooperated to allow the largest possible number of Iraqi pilgrims to travel to the Kingdom by air rather than by land, and disregarded Al-Jaafari’s failure to strike a fair agreement on badly needed charter planes, the Ministry said.
Over the years, the Kingdom has supported Iraqi pilgrims, providing them with on-border entry visas, the Ministry said.