Betlehem klar for jul

BETHLEHEM ( - The mayor of Bethlehem said on Tuesday that city of Jesus' birth was ready for an expected flood of visitors coming to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of his birth.

Mayor Hanna Nasser said more than 50,000 visitors were expected on Christmas Day and 2.5 million over the next year, almost double the average in recent years. Bethlehem underwent a major facelift this year, including Manger Square adjacent to the Church of the Nativity being converted from a parking lot to a walking plaza. The city received $86 million, including a $25 million loan from the World Bank, for its renovation project.

Palestinian Authority officials said that they were had made special security precautions for Christmas Eve. Nabil Qassis, in charge of "Bethlehem 2000," the city's renovation and celebration program for the millennium, said security would be adequate, but would give no details.

Catholic World News Service Daily News Briefs