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Qatar accuses Saudis of barring Haj pilgrims

RIYADH: (Web Desk) Qatar has accused Saudi Arabia of barring its citizens from this year’s Haj, something Riyadh denies, saying a diplomatic dispute is not stopping Qataris from making the pilgrimage to Makkah.

Although 1,200 Qataris are eligible to perform the Haj under a quota system, Qatar says it has become impossible to get permits, blaming the campaign by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to cut trade and diplomatic ties with the country.

Abdullah Al-Kaabi of the state-run Qatar National Human Rights Committee said Saudi Arabia had shut down an electronic system used by travel agencies to obtain permits for pilgrims from Qatar.

“There is no chance this year for Qatari citizens and residents to travel for Haj,” he said. “Registration of pilgrims from the State of Qatar remains closed, and residents of Qatar cannot be granted visas as there are no diplomatic missions.”

A Saudi official said Qatar had blocked several registration links set up for its pilgrims. An official at Saudi Arabia’s Haj ministry said a group of Qataris had arrived for the pilgrimage which runs from Sunday to Aug 24, but he did not say how many there were or whether they had travelled directly from Qatar. Last year, 1,624 Qatari pilgrims attended, he said.

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