Iraq Blames Iran for Iranian Pilgrims being Stopped at Border
Iraq blamed Iran Saturday for the inability of more than 500 Iranian pilgrims to cross the border into Iraq earlier this week to visit Shiite Muslim shrines.
Iraqi border guards reportedly demanded entrance fees higher than those agreed under a pilgrimage arrangement between the two nations.
Tehran accused Baghdad of reneging on the agreement, which includes a fixed price for the border crossing that is supposed to be in effect until late September.
But in a statement Saturday, a spokesman for the Iraqi foreign ministry said the Iranian complaint was "devoid of all foundation" and stemmed from "basely political objectives."
The spokesman, quoted by the official INA news agency as saying that "Iraq is open to welcoming those Iranians who want to visit the holy sites."
He added without explanation that the halt to the pilgrimage was an "Iranian decision stemming from (Iran's) inability to fulfill obligations for which it had contracted."
Iranian pilgrimages were halted during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
They were resumed in 1998, though during the 1990s Iranians could enter Iraq by passing through Jordan -- BAGHDAD (AFP)
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