World Bulletin / News Desk
Saudi King Salman said Tuesday the kingdom rejected any attempt to play politics with the hajj, the annual pilgrimage which has added to tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.
Among its concerns, Riyadh said Tehran had demanded the right to organise demonstrations.
"The kingdom categorically rejects that the hajj serves any political purpose," Salman, 80, said in a brief address to international VIPs attending the pilgrimage.
Tehran had accused Riyadh of "blocking the path leading to Allah."
Among the contentious issues was security after last year's hajj stampede which, according to foreign officials, killed roughly 2,300 people.
Iran reported the largest number of victims, at 464.
Just days before this year's hajj, which began on Saturday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei questioned Saudi Arabia's right to manage Islam's holiest sites.
He called the Saudi ruling family "puny Satans" who had politicised the pilgrimage. Khamenei also said Saudi authorities "murdered" the stampede victims.
His claims led to mutual accusations throughout last week.
Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh retaliated by telling a newspaper that Iranians "are not Muslims".
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Saudi Arabia is the most powerful member, accused Iran of "a desperate attempt to politicise" the hajj and said Khamenei's remarks were offensive.
More than 1.8 million faithful from around the world have been attending the annual pilgrimage which officially ends on Thursday.
"Serving the guests of God is an honour for us," Salman told the VIP delegates.
Saudi Arabia had said Iranians were still welcome at the hajj if they came from another country. The hajj ministry's spokesman said "a number" who held other passports were in attendance.
He was not more specific.
Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran have no diplomatic relations and are at odds over a number of regional issues including the wars in Syria and Yemen.
Last year’s pilgrimage saw 1.9 million Muslims visit holy cities of Mecca, Medina
Muslims from across the world are gathering in Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage to take part in the following rituals:
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, and it also provides the largest number of pilgrims for the hajj.
FM announces quota for Indonesian pilgrims increased by 52,200 to 221,000 this year
Pilgrims traditionally visit Prophet Muhammad's Mosque in Medina either before or after completing Hajj ritual
Head of religious affairs congratulates Muslims from Mecca
More than 1.8 million Muslims from around the world gathered in this year Hajj
For the first time in nearly three decades, Iran's 64,000 pilgrims are not attending the hajj in Saudi Arabia after the two regional rivals failed to agree on security and logistics.
Fatima, 38, managed to leave Syria after government troops assaulted her home neighbourhood of Baba Amr in the central city of Homs, one of the cradles of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
More than 1.8 million gathered from sunrise at the hill and a vast surrounding plain known as Mount Arafat, about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Mecca.
The pilgrims spend the day on the Arafat plateau in supplicating to God to forgive their sins
A Russian, a Chinese and a Malaysian – united in their desire to perform the Hajj – make the arduous journey to Saudi Arabia
The Hajj hosts millions of people and in doing so requires a dedicated amount of workers bringing together thousands of people to make the Hajj safe and easy for pilgrims
Some of the stories shared by pilgrims and people who work in Makkah. We’ve selected a few posts that touched our hearts.
Hezbollah reportedly threatens to expel members disobeying the ban