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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK
N Korea makes World Heritage List
Detail from a mural in the Koguryo tombs (courtesy of Unesco/Icomos)
Murals in the Koguryo tombs are more than 1,000 years old
A complex of ancient tombs across North Korea and China has been recognised by the UN's World Heritage List.

Two sites from the Koguryo dynasty - one in each country - are recognised for their special cultural value. It is North Korea's first entry on the list.

The UN's cultural body, Unesco, says it is trying to balance the bias towards Western sites on the list so far.

Forty-eight sites are being considered for the list by the World Heritage Committee at a meeting in China.

Political agenda

The annual meeting, where the sites are being discussed, is taking place Suzhou and will last until 7 July.

An official said the final choice should be limited to 30, but political considerations may mean it exceeds that.

Koguryo complex, North Korea
Koguryo complex, China
Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland
Tropical Rainforest of Sumatra, Indonesia
Cape Floral Region, South Africa
Wrangel Island Reserve, Russia
Pitons Area, St Lucia
Tomb of Askia, Mali
Mazagan/ El Jadida, Morocco
Koutammakou, Togo

To date 754 sites of "outstanding universal value" have been placed on the list.

The first group of newly approved sites includes four in Africa, as well as listings for Indonesia and the Caribbean.

Chinese and Koreans have argued over their claims to the Koguryo dynasty, which reigned from 277 BC to 668 AD in an area that straddles the modern border between China and the Korean peninsula.

Roni Amelan of Unesco told BBC News Online the body had given "separate classification of sites, one in China and one in North Korea".


The other eight announced so far include the Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland, the fastest and most active glacier outside Antarctica.

Indonesia's 2.5 million hectare (10,000 sq miles) Tropical Rainforest of Sumatra is also recognised for its endangered species, while the Cape Floral Region in South Africa is noted for its extraordinary variety of plants.

Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland (courtesy of Unesco/IUCN)
Ilulissat Icefjord is Greenland's first entry on the list
Russia's Wrangel Island Reserve, a habitat for polar bears and walrus well inside the Arctic Circle, and the tropical coral reefs and volcanic spires of the Pitons Management Area of the Caribbean island of St Lucia, were also added.

One of the new cultural sites is Mali's Tomb of Askia, a pyramidal structure built from the proceeds of trans-Saharan trade in 1495.

The Portuguese-built city of Mazagan, or El Jadida, in Morocco, and mud tower-houses of Koutammakou in north-eastern Togo were also approved.

Unesco this year urged the independent committee selecting sites to make the list more representative and diverse.

"Europe, for example, is grossly over-represented," Mr Amelan said.

It has also warned that the world's heritage - even in sites already on the list - is threatened by human development even more than by war or natural disasters.

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