Europe's most active volcano, Mount Etna in eastern Sicily, has been granted world heritage status by a UNESCO committee meeting in Cambodia.
The World Heritage Committee has granted Italy's Mount Etna special status for 2,700 years of documentation of its volcanism and scientific importance.
The committee of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), meeting in Cambodia, said Mount Etna's notoriety as well as its cultural and educational value was of "global significance."
It cited its diverse features, including summit craters and lava flows observed since the Greek and Roman classical era.
Maurizio Enrico Luigi Serra, Italy's ambassador to UNESCO, said the recognition of Etna was due to "two decades of technical meetings." It would remain a "never-ending source of geological data," he said.
Etna peaks at 3,300 meters (10,900 feet) and stands near Catania, Sicily's second city. The volcano formed some 500,000 years ago off the ancient coastline of Sicily.
Eruptions from its central crater have spilled lava that sometimes put villages at risk. Catania itself was hit by an eruption in 1669. It was rebuilt in Baroque style. In April this year it was also active.
At its 10-day meeting in Phnom Penh, the committee is considering whether to grant heritage status to 31 sites, including Japan's Mount Fuji and the city of Agadez in Niger.
ipj/jr (dpa, AFP)