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U.S, Britain Sign Treaty to Protect Titanic Site

June 19, 2004|From Associated Press

The United States signed a treaty Friday with Great Britain to protect the undersea wreckage of the Titanic from damage and looting, the State Department said.

The treaty, which Britain signed in November, still requires approval from Congress.

The treaty would set up regulations to control visits to the site, John Turner, assistant secretary of state, said in a telephone conference call.

It also would designate the Titanic as an international maritime memorial and would set up a system to document items removed from the site and make them available to the public. The details and enforcement are to be decided by the countries.

The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank April 15, 1912, killing 1,500 people. Its wreckage is in international waters 225 miles off the coast of Newfoundland.

The treaty came at the urging of undersea explorer Robert Ballard, who found the Titanic 18 years ago. He revisited the wreck this month to chronicle the damage to the ship, caused by natural forces, visitors and salvagers. Ballard said he hoped other countries, including France, Canada and Russia, would also sign the treaty.

"I'm encouraged now to see the momentum picking up, and I think several things would need to go on before I could call the Titanic safe, but it's absolutely the right thing to do," Ballard said.

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