Sunday, August 08, 2004

Iran Issues New Iraq Travel Warning For Pilgrims

Iran Issues New Iraq Travel Warning For Pilgrims: "Iran Issues New Iraq Travel Warning For Pilgrims
AFP: 8/8/2004
TEHRAN, Aug 8 (AFP) - Iran issued a fresh warning to its nationals Sunday not to travel on pilgrimages to Shiite Muslim shrines in neighbouring Iraq, and appealed to Iraq to stop issuing them visas.
Iran's deputy interior minister in charge of security affairs, Ali Asghar Ahmadi, told state television the call was made 'due to the adverse domestic situation in Iraq.'
The report said the interior ministry had also asked the Iraqi diplomatic mission here to annul existing pilgrimage visas.
Six of the 12 imams revered in the Shiite branch of Islam dominant in Iran are buried in Iraq, where Shiites also make up the majority of the population.
One of the most popular destinations is the shrine of the father of Shiite Islam, Imam Ali, in Najaf. The central city is currently the scene of heavy fighting between militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and US-led forces.
Since the ouster of Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein in April last year, thousands of Iranian pilgrims have made the journey illegally, despite a growing death toll from landmines and bandits and the risk of arrest by US forces on the look-out for infiltrators.
Pilgrimages to Iraq's holy Shiite places were halted throughout the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, and only resumed in very limited numbers at the end of the 1990s. "

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