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New Haj portal unveiled for Qataris

Move comes after Doha blocked initial site

Gulf News

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has launched a new website for Qatari nationals wishing to perform Haj pilgrimage this year after Qatari authorities blocked a similar portal previously unveiled amid a diplomatic row between the two Gulf countries.

The Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah said the effort is aimed at allowing the Qataris to register for participation in next month’s annual pilgrimage.

“This comes within the framework of the keenness of the [Saudi] Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to facilitate the procedures for the arrival of all pilgrims and remove all obstacles that may face them in coming to perform this obligation,” the ministry added in a statement, reported in Saudi media on Saturday.

Last week, the ministry announced designating a website to receive requests from Qataris wishing to perform the Haj after a deadline for finalising pilgrimage arrangements expired without response from Doha.

The Qatari government is accused of coming in the way of its citizens going to the Haj for the second year in a row, manipulating the holy ritual in a year-old dispute with a Saudi-led Arab bloc.

In June last year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and transportation links with Qatar over its support for extremist groups, an accusation that Doha has denied.

The anti-Qatar alliance has also designated as terrorists several militant individuals and groups associated with Doha.

The Haj is one of Islam’s five pillars. Muslims are expected to perform it at least once in their lives if they can afford it and are physically able.

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