Ahmadinejad Invited to Hajj in Saudi

A036180710.jpgTEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been invited to perform the hajj pilgrimage by Saudi King Abdullah, in another first for the Islamic republic’s chief executive, Iran’s ambassador to Riyadh announced on Wednesday.

“King Abdullah today invited President Ahmadinejad to take part in the pilgrimage to Mecca,” Mohammad Hosseini told the student news agency.

Hosseini said Ahmadinejad would travel to Saudi Arabia at the start of next week, without giving further details.

Ahmadinejad had told a news conference on Tuesday that he would perform the Muslim pilgrimage this year, if he was invited to Saudi Arabia by King Abdullah.

His media advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr, who is already in Saudi Arabia, confirmed that the president had been invited to the annual pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, located in western Saudi Arabia.

“It is the first time in the history of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia that the king of this country invites a president of the Islamic republic to make the pilgrimage to Mecca,” he said.

“As a result, the visit of Ahmadinejad is considered to be an important event in the relations between the two countries,” he added.

There was no definitive confirmation of the acceptance of the invitation, although it appeared the highly symbolic trip would be going ahead.

“At the moment the probability of Ahmadinejad making the visit is very high,” said an official in the office of the presidency.

Saudi Arabia has announced that the high point of the hajj when pilgrims converge on Mount Arafat near Mecca would take place on December 18, and Eid al-Adha marking the end of the pilgrimage would be celebrated the next day.

Ahmadinejad’s pilgrimage would be of much significance for the two sides. It would be his third visit to the kingdom since taking office.

Ahmadinejad also became the first president of the Islamic republic to attend the end-of-year annual summit of Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) that was held in Qatar earlier in December.

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