With just over a week before the next elimination round, the Dead Sea may be out of the running for the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World contest. The Palestinian Authority Tourism Ministry refuses to join Israel and Jordan in an "Official Supporting Committee" because of settler involvement on Israel's side. The contest, in which Web surfers vote for the sites they think should be the known as the new Natural Wonders of the World, is scheduled to go into its second stage on July 7, cutting the field from 261 candidates to 77, with the seven winners to be selected in 2011. PA Tourism Minister Khouloud Daibes told Reuters, "We will not be forming a committee," because the Israeli committee "has been consulting with settler councilmen on occupied land and this contravenes international law." Under the competition rules, without an Official Supporting Committee, a nominee cannot participate in the next stages of the New7Wonders of Nature campaign. The rules also say that in locations where there is more than one country involved, all of them must jointly submit an Official Supporting Committee by July 7. To form an OSC, applicants must be authorized by a national, regional or local government with responsibility for the nominated location. In Israel's case the applicant was the Megilot Dead Sea Regional Council, on the western coast of the Dead Sea, 25 minutes from Jerusalem. Prof. Yossi Leshem of Tel Aviv University's zoology department said he showed the contest's founder, Swiss-born Canadian Bernard Weber, around the Dead Sea when he first came to Israel to examine the site. "I even organized a short promotional video showing three children; one Jordanian, one Palestinian and one Israeli sailing in a small boat on the Dead Sea waters." According to Leshem, the representatives from the Megilot Regional Council first tried to submit the contest forms without the Palestinians. "I told them they have to include the Palestinians, but they wanted to do it alone," said Leshem. The project aims to promote knowledge of the world's most precious natural locations, in hope that with knowledge will come the will to make sure they remain intact for the generations to come. The project's slogan, "If we want to save anything, we first need to truly appreciate it," draws attention to the fact that natural wonders are vanishing because of human activity. The Dead Sea water levels are dropping by a meter a year for the most part because its source, the Jordan River, is being used to provide drinking water. If the Dead Sea were to stay in the running, it would compete in its category of lakes, rivers and waterfalls against such places as the Yangtze River in China, the Ganges in India, Niagara Falls on the border of Ontario and New York and Scotland's Loch Ness. When New 7 Wonders organization www.new7wonders.com held its last contest choosing the seven man-made marvels of the world in 2007, 100 million people voted. This time it predicts a billion votes will be cast.