NICOSIA, Cyprus — Saudi Arabia's official media branded Iran's rulers madmen and terrorists Friday in renewed conflict over the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, where more than a million Muslims have gathered.
The behavior of Iran's rulers "can only be described as madness and foolishness. . . . It is impossible to deal with Iran in any way," Saudi Arabia's Al Riyadh newspaper said.
The attack was Saudi Arabia's most stinging this year in a dispute that has simmered since 1987 when more than 400 people, mostly Iranians, were killed in clashes with security forces in Mecca.
In Tehran, Iran's chief justice accused Saudi rulers of using baseless excuses to limit Iranian pilgrims and said: "We want God to give us the strength . . . to throw out the corpse of this taghut (tyrant) from the House of God."
Abdulkarim Moussavi Ardabili, speaking at Friday prayers and referring to the 1987 clashes which erupted as pilgrims demonstrated against Israel and the United States, said Riyadh has imposed a quota because it "fears that in protesting against infidels, the new (pilgrims) will be as adamant as the (1987) martyrs."
Iran, which sent 150,000 pilgrims to Mecca in 1987, has sent none this year for the second year running because Saudi Arabia said it would accept only 45,000 Iranians.
Saudi Arabia last year gained the support of all Muslim states except Iran for a quota system of one pilgrim for every 1,000 Muslims in any one country while a $300-million project to improve facilities at holy sites is under way.
Al Riyadh charged that Tehran fosters "terrorism in Arab and European states and seeks recourse with international gangs. . . . It imagines it is the world's third superpower."
Tehran Radio, monitored in Nicosia, quoted Ahmad Khomeini, son of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the supreme leader who died last month, as condemning the Saudi royal family as advocates of "American-style Islam."
King Fahd and his relatives aim to make Islam nonpolitical and useless for fighting oppressive powers, the radio said.
Iran has been at odds with conservative Saudi Arabia since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Tehran and Iran's new leader, Ali Khamenei, urged pilgrims Thursday to stage new protests against Israel and the United States in defiance of a Saudi ban.
The mass pilgrimage, or hajj, reaches a climax Wednesday.
The following day will be the end of 40 days of official mourning in Iran for Khomeini, who died of a heart attack June 3.
Riyadh, which backed Baghdad in the Iran-Iraq War, severed ties with Iran early in 1988. But in October, after an August cease-fire in the Persian Gulf War, King Fahd ordered a halt in a war of words with Iran.