Saudi Arabia halts pilgrimage; Iran vice president has virus

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A state-owned newspaper in Iran says Masoumeh Ebtekar, a vice president in the Islamic Republic and a spokeswoman for the 1979 hostage-takers, has the new coronavirus. The report Thursday came from the English-language IRAN daily newspaper via its Twitter account. Ebtekar was known during the hostage crisis as “Mary.” The report comes as other top officials in Iran’s Shiite theocracy have caught the virus. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has banned foreign pilgrims from entering the kingdom to visit Islam’s holiest sites over the new coronavirus, potentially disrupting the plans of millions of faithful ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and as the annual hajj pilgrimage looms.