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Hajj nears its climax

The cleric who delivered the sermon Friday at the hajj pilgrimage had a simple request: God grant victory to Muslims fighting around the world.

The prayer by Sheik Saleh al-Taleb to 500,000 people in Mecca's Grand Mosque and nearby streets came as the hajj neared its climax.

"Oh God, give victory to the mujahedeen (holy warriors) everywhere," al-Taleb said. "Give them victory in Palestine. Oh God, make the Muslims triumphant and destroy their enemies."

After the sermon, pilgrims headed to the tent city of Mina, the last stop before they go to Mount Arafat for a day of prayers and soul-searching that is the main ritual of the annual gathering.

After the sermon, nearly 2-million pilgrims walked and took buses to Mina for a night of rest before heading to Arafat.

Time spent at Arafat, a hill 12 miles southwest of Mecca, is believed to represent the Day of Judgment, when Islam says every person will stand before God and answer for his deeds. Muhammad, Islam's prophet, delivered his last sermon at Mount Arafat in March 632.

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