This file photo taken on Dec. 4, 2008 shows cranes in the background at construction sites behind Mecca's Grand Mosque as Muslims from all over the world are flocking to Mecca to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage. / AFP / KHALED DESOUKI
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With Iranians blocked from this month's hajj pilgrimage, their supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a furious rebuke to rival Saudi Arabia, saying the Muslim world should challenge its management of Islam's holiest sites."Because of Saudi rulers' oppressive behavior towards God's guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of hajj," Khamenei wrote in a statement on his website.He reserved some of his harshest words for Riyadh's response to a deadly stampede during last year's hajj that killed some 2,300 foreign pilgrims, including an estimated 464 Iranians. Riyadh-Tehran ties were severed for four years after more than 400 people were killed in Mecca during clashes between Iranian pilgrims staging an anti-U.S. protest and Saudi security forces in 1987 .
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