Palestinians push for Bethlehem UNESCO recognition

By the Associated Press | June 26, 2012 | 1:48 PM EDT

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinians are making a last push to get parts of biblical Bethlehem recognized as an endangered World Heritage site ahead of a decision expected this week.

On Tuesday, two dozen civic groups and municipalities in the Bethlehem area sent an open letter to UNESCO, the global cultural organization, saying the international community has a "legal and moral responsibility" to the sites. They cited past Israeli attacks on the town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where Palestinians have self-rule.

The Palestinians seek recognition for the Church of the Nativity, built over Jesus' traditional birth grotto, and a Bethlehem pilgrimage route.

A UNESCO experts committee has turned down the emergency bid, saying the nomination needs more work. Christian denominations are also opposed, fearing UNESCO meddling in affairs of the church.