From: Darius James Ross, Reuters
Published July 14, 2006 12:00 AM

U.N. Adds 18 Sites to Heritage List, but Not Everest

VILNIUS — Mediaeval crusader castles in Syria and ancient irrigation systems in Oman were among 18 new cultural and natural sites added to the U.N.'s World Heritage list this week, officials said on Thursday.

UNESCO, the U.N. environmental and cultural body, also added the Vizcaya Bridge in Spain and the mining landscapes of Cornwall and West Devon in Britain.

The new sites, added at a meeting of UNESCO's World Heritage committee in Lithuania's capital Vilnius, brings the global list of cultural and natural sites to 830.

The cultural body could increase the list even further at the current meeting. Officials said two more sites were still up for deliberation later on Thursday, but they would not say what these sites were.

In a statement, UNESCO officials praised Oman's ancient Aflaj irrigation system, still in use by its inhabitants today, as "an exceptionally well-preserved form of land use".

The committee added two castles in Syria built by mediaeval military orders, including Krak des Chevaliers, which it ranked among the best-preserved examples of crusader castles.

Also listed were on Thursday were Sewell Mining Town in Chile, the archaeological site of Yin Xu in China and the Old Town in Regensburg, Germany.

Others included an ancient bas-relief commissioned by Darius the Great in Iran, buildings in the historic centre of Genoa, Italy and Centennial Hall in Wroclaw, Poland.

Earlier in the week, the organisation listed the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary in China, which is home to over 30 percent of the world's endangered giant pandas.

However UNESCO, at a press conference in Vilnius, also signalled that the rate of new sites was being slowed down.

"The number of new sites is dropping and criteria are being tightened," a spokeswoman said. She did not give reasons.

UNESCO's decision not to protect Mount Everest earlier this week drew fire from environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, who called on the U.N. body to act because they say global warming is melting the glaciers surrounding the peak.

If UNESCO placed Everest and other sites on its protection list it would put governments under pressure to protect them.

A UNESCO official said more information needed to be gathered before a decision could be made on Everest.

She said it could still go on its list at a later date.

Last year Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest -- reaching the summit with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953 -- added his voice to calls to protect the region.

Source: Reuters

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