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Dead Sea moves ahead in natural wonders contest

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Dead Sea advanced in an international competition to name the seven natural wonders of the world.

Voters in the global Natural Wonders Internet contest narrowed the list Wednesday from 261 sites to 77. Twenty-eight will be chosen for the final round of online voting; the list will be published by the organizers on July 21.

Competition organizers expect more than a billion people to participate in the online voting, which will continue into 2011, when the finalists by categories will be announced.

A victory for the Dead Sea in its category of lakes, rivers and waterfalls could bring more tourism to the area and raise awareness of the lake’s uncertain future, since it is shrinking yearly.

Initially the Palestinian Authority had balked at signing the official supporting papers for the Dead Sea’s candidacy but later acquiesced.

Under the rules of the contest, if a nominated site is located in more than one country, each country must have a contest committee. The Dead Sea sits in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority had refused to establish a committee due to the participation of an Israel municipal council that represents settlements. Israel and Jordan had signed participation documents.

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