Iraq celebrates UNESCO recognition of Babylon as World Heritage Site
Iraq on Friday celebrated the UNESCO World Heritage Committee's decision to name the historic city of Babylon a World Heritage Site in a vote held in Azerbaijan's capital, years after Baghdad began campaigning for the site to be added to the list.
The city on the Euphrates River is about 85 kilometres (55 miles) south of Baghdad and once was a main tourist attraction before Iraq suffered one war after another in the past four decades.
"A thousand congratulations to the people of Babylon, a thousand congratulations to all Iraqis. Of course, listing the city of Babylon as World Heritage will bring benefits to the city of Babylon from an archeological perspective," Mohamed Taher Abbas, Head of Babylon Archeology Inspectorate, said to reporters.
"It will attract the foreign archeological missions in terms of excavating and maintenance; at the same time there will be listing of a plan by the world tourism via the list of World Heritage to flourish tourism in the city of Babylon."
The 4,300-year-old Babylon - now mainly an archaeological ruin and two important museums - is where dynasties have risen and fallen since the earliest days of settled human civilisation.
King Hammurabi wrote his famous code of laws in Babylon, while Nebuchadnezzar sent his vast army from the city to Jerusalem to put down an uprising and bring the Jews back as slaves.
Some say Alexander the Great, who led his army out of Macedonia to conquer most of the known world, died here in 332 BC.
Dozens of Iraqis waving their national flag gathered at the Ishtar Gate at the site celebrating their city's new international status.