, PARIS, Aug 1 – World culture body UNESCO added 15 sites to its top heritage list this weekend, including an imperial palace in Vietnam, temples in China, an Australian penal colony and a historic bazaar in Iran.
Also listed was the Bikini Atoll, a speck in the Pacific which was evacuated in 1946 while the United States carried out nuclear bomb tests, the Paris-based UN organisation announced on its website Sunday.
In Asia, UNESCO listed the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, the holy monuments at Mount Songshang near Dengfeng in eastern China, and Sarazm, an ancient archaeological site in Tajikistan.
In Australia, UNESCO added to the list 11 sites set up by the British to house deported convicts in the 18th and 19th centuries.
"The property presents the best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of convicts," UNESCO said in a statement.
South Korea gained an entry for the 14th-century villages of Hahoe and Yangdong, nests of Confucian culture, as did India, with the 18-century astronomical observatory of Jantar Mantar in Jaipur.
The European sites listed were the medieval cathedral city of Albi in southwestern France and the picturesque canals of Amsterdam.
On Saturday UNESCO said it had added Sri Lanka\’s Central Highlands region, home to endangered leopards and primates, and the United States\’ Papahanaumokuakea archipelago, rich in Hawaiian traditions.
The UNESCO World Heritage stamp is a valuable asset for countries since it boosts tourism — a strong incentive for a remote place like Bikini, whose visitor activities have been hit hard by tough economic conditions.
The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization chose the new sites at a meeting in Brazil, updating its list of top spots for historical interest or natural beauty.
The meeting runs until Tuesday, with a total 39 sites under consideration.
In the Middle East, Iran won a listing for the historic bazaar in its northern city of Tabriz and a Sufi mystic shrine complex in Ardabil, as did Saudi Arabia for its former dynastic capital, the 15th-century Turaif District.
In Africa, the Ngorongoro natural park in Tanzania entered the list as a cultural treasure "because of the extraordinary record of human evolution at the site," UNESCO said.
UNESCO\’s meeting also updates its list of endangered beauty spots. On Friday it added Florida\’s Everglades and Madagascar\’s tropical forest to the 31 sites already on the list, which aims to boost environmental protection.
Earlier, it removed the Galapagos Islands from that list. Its consulting body, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, warned it was "premature" to declare the islands out of danger from threats including overfishing.