(ASSOCIATED PRESS) — The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is becoming the church of contention, with a bid by the Palestinians to use their position as the newest members of the U.N.’s cultural arm to obtain World Heritage status for the iconic Christian site – and perhaps boost their own campaign for legitimacy.

The effort by the Palestinian Authority, like its overall efforts for global recognition for an independent Palestinian state, is drawing resistance. And it may fail at the World Heritage Committee meeting that starts Sunday.

An experts committee has turned down the emergency bid to quickly confer on the Church of the Nativity, and its pilgrimage route, the status as an endangered World Heritage site, saying the application needs more work. Even custodians of the holy site, the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian churches are opposed, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

The church – which drew some 2 million visitors last year and parts of which are 1,500 years old – stands above the grotto that Christians believe was the birthplace of Jesus. The Palestinians’ application asks for recognition as a site of “outstanding universal value” urgently in need of attention.

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