UN official urges new international effort to safeguard Jerusalem's Old City

UN official urges new international effort to safeguard Jerusalem's Old City

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The head of the Nations cultural organization today called for a new, non-political international effort to safeguard the heritage of Jerusalem's Old City.

Addressing the General Conference of the Paris-based UN Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), Director-General Koichiro Matsuura said the new effort in Jerusalem - "this city of art, of spirituality, of history" - should be carried out under UNESCO auspices.

If the initiative to safeguard of Jerusalem's heritage meets with broad endorsement, Mr. Matsuura said he would seek to fund an operation that would be conducted "strictly on professional and technical footing, removed from all political considerations."

Looking to the broader context of UNESCO's efforts, the Director-General said the terrorist attacks of 11 September gave greater impetus to the agency's work. "These tragic events will have suddenly placed the values which are at the heart of UNESCO's mission - tolerance, dialogue, respect and mutual understanding: in one word, the culture of peace - at the forefront of international priorities."

The General Conference, UNESCO's supreme governing body, brings together the agency's 188 Member States every two years. The current session, which opened on Monday, will continue through 3 November.