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Culture

UNESCO to Revise List of World Heritage Sites

UNESCO has called for a stronger commitment to protecting the world's cultural and natural treasures as it prepares to select new World Heritage sites. But the future of Germany's Elbe River Valley is still uncertain.

Dresden's Elbe River Valley

The Elbe River Valley is an endangered site

Panel president Christina Cameron of Canada said on Wednesday, July 2, that the protection of extraordinary cultural accomplishments and natural phenomenon was an important contribution to sustaining communities and preserving quality of life.

She was speaking in Quebec, a World Heritage site that is celebrating its 400th anniversary as the oldest European settlement in North America. Canada is chair of the current 21-country committee that also includes Bahrain, Brazil, Cuba, China and the United States.

"World Heritage sites, which are protected and shared with others, can promote our understanding of the diversity of cultures and ecological systems," she said.

During the nine-day gathering, the UN organization will consider applications for new designations in 41 countries, and discuss heritage sites that have lost their luster through negligence, lack of funds or natural disaster.

Committee to debate Dresden

The focus of debate as early as Friday will be one of Germany's most historic and scenic areas of 18th and 19th century significance, the Dresden Elbe Valley.

German authorities had decided to build a bridge in the heart of the well-known landscape against the advice of UNESCO, which urged a tunnel. Warnings were issued about the site's status in 2006 after the decision to build the bridge was taken.

No site has ever been delisted from the program. In all, 30 of 851 World Heritage sites are considered endangered.

Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia

Thailand has withdrawn support for Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple

Two countries claim historic temple

Cambodia is seeking designation for a millennial temple, Preah Vihear, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, but Thailand is challenging the move. A 1962 World Court ruling awarded the temple to Cambodia, but part of the land it sits on belongs to Thailand, where some people argue for a two-county heritage listing of site.

Thailand Tuesday formally withdrew its support for Cambodia's designation, in keeping with an Administrative Court order made over the weekend. It is unclear whether the government change in stance on the listing will derail Cambodia's proposal.

The temple is perched on a mountain range that defines the Thai-Cambodian border.

Dozens vie for heritage designation

Among other applicants are five countries seeking their first sites on the UNESCO list -- Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, San Marino and Vanuatu.

Among Eastern European countries, Albania, Croatia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, the Russian Federation and Slovakia are applying for recognition of special sites, and Hungary and Slovakia have a joint application for designation of a network of fortifications where the Danube and Vah rivers converge in Komarno.

In the Middle East, applicants include Yemen for its Socotra Archipelago; Saudi Arabia for archaeological site al-Hijr; Iran for the Armenian monastic ensembles in its Azerbaijan province; and Israel for the triple-arch gate at Dan and the Bahai holy places in Haifa and western Galilee.

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