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    5,500 RUSSIANS FOR HAJJ, REPORTS SAUDI CONSUL

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    MOSCOW, JANUARY 27 (RIA Novosti correspondent Yulia Troitskaya) - Close on 5,500 Russian nationals are going this year on pilgrimage to the principal Muslim shrines in Mecca and Medina, says Abdul Razzak al-Qeshmi, Consul for Moscow of the Saudi Arabian Embassy to Russia.

    Saudi authorities had no problems whatever with Russian pilgrims on previous years' hajjes, he said in a Novosti interview.

    Certain pilgrims are loath to leave Saudi Arabia once they get there. Royal officers regard it as one of the worst issues they are clashing with. Not a single instance has concerned a Russian national ever since Russian Muslims became free to make hajjes, pointed out the diplomat.

    To make a hajj to Mecca and Medina at least once in a lifetime is among the essential Muslim precepts. Regrettably, only an approximate 25 per cent of Muslims residing in Russia can afford the expensive pilgrimage, for the time being.

    This year's hajj is taking an official start, January 28. More than two million pilgrims are expected from many countries, says the Al-Arabiyya television.

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