Stranded French Mecca pilgrims head home

2nd February 2005, Comments 0 comments

RIYADH, Feb 2 (AFP) - The last of a group of French pilgrims stranded for days in a Saudi airport after their pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca were due to head back home on Wednesday, Saudi aviation officials said.

RIYADH, Feb 2 (AFP) - The last of a group of French pilgrims stranded for days in a Saudi airport after their pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca were due to head back home on Wednesday, Saudi aviation officials said.

"The problem is sorted... We decided yesterday (Tuesday) to charter a plane to transport them," air transport director Talal Kably told AFP.

A flight operated by the Saudi flag-carrier "Saudia" has transported about 450 French passengers from the Red Sea port of Jeddah in western Saudi Arabia to Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris.

"The number of French pilgrims remaining in Jeddah last night was around 160, and these were expected to leave Wednesday morning," said Kably.

Kably said a problem between an Egyptian company operating charter flights to Jeddah and its local travel agent had caused the delay in the departure of French and other European pilgrims.

The French foreign ministry said Tuesday that several thousand French pilgrims were stranded for several days in Saudi Arabia after their airline company failed to guarantee their return home.

Kably also told the local Saudi Gazette newspaper that 1,800 passengers, including non-French pilgrims, were stranded because of insufficient flights.

He however said that 1,313 pilgrims had been flown home in the last 24 hours, the English-language daily added.

Last month, about 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims from around the world converged to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, one of the five main pillars of Islam.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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