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Saudis, Iranians at Odds Over Oil Prices, Pilgrimage

March 17, 1994| From Reuters

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran took a turn for the worse Wednesday when Saudi Arabia reacted sharply to criticism by Iran's spiritual leader, suggesting new tension between the two Persian Gulf oil giants.

In an official statement, Saudi Arabia accused Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of irresponsibility for charging that Saudi Arabia was hindering Iranians' pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in the kingdom.

Diplomats said the new war of words could mark the end of a period of cool but correct relations between the two neighbors.

They attributed the current tension to the failure of the two nations to agree on how to maintain stability in the region and how to shore up weak world oil prices.

The latest dispute, over how many Iranians should be allowed to attend this year's pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, came amid signs that Riyadh is losing patience with Tehran's apparent inability to deliver on promises of political moderation.

Saudi Arabia believes radicals are undermining the pragmatism promised by President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Riyadh also believes Iran is meddling in its neighbors' affairs and supporting Muslim fundamentalists in Arab countries such as Algeria, Egypt and Sudan.

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