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Syria Slams Saudi Arabia for 'Politicizing' Hajj Pilgrimage

FILE - Muslim pilgrims prepare themselves for Friday prayers in front of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 9, 2016.

Syria's government says Saudi authorities continue to place restrictions on Syrian citizens looking to take part in this year's hajj, accusing the kingdom of “politicizing” the annual Muslim pilgrimage.

Tuesday's statement from the Ministry of Religious Endowments criticized what it described as Riyadh's “political and financial exploitation” of the pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic ties with President Bashar Assad's government and since 2012 requires Syrians seeking to make the hajj to obtain visas in third countries through the “Syrian High Hajj Committee,” which is controlled by the Syrian National Coalition, an opposition political group.

The statement, carried by Syria's Arab News Agency or SANA, says the right to perform pilgrimage is being “politicized” by Saudi authorities.