BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — The Palestinians on Wednesday made a final push to have UNESCO recognize the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the Israeli-controlled West Bank as an endangered World Heritage site, despite misgivings by Christian denominations and a cool response from the U.N. agency.
The Palestinians acknowledge a political component to their bid, saying UNESCO recognition of the centuries-old basilica, built over Jesus' traditional birth grotto in the biblical town, is also a vote for an independent Palestine. Israel says the Palestinians — by claiming one of Christianity's holiest sites is threatened by Israel's occupation of the West Bank — are bashing the Jewish state.
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A decision is expected in days at a meeting by a UNESCO committee in St. Petersburg, Russia. Two Palestinian officials said they count on support of at least 10 of 21 countries represented, and hope for a win if enough members abstain.