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By: The Associated Press by Barbara Surk

Tango was declared part of the world's cultural heritage by the United Nations on Wednesday and granted the international seal of approval Argentina and Uruguay have long sought for the dramatic dance and its sensual moves.

The 24 members of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee of Intangible Heritage granted the tango dance and its music protected cultural status at its meeting in Abu Dhabi.

The designation may make Argentina and Uruguay, which both claim to be tango's birthplace, eligible to receive financial assistance from a specialized fund for safeguarding cultural traditions. It will also help both governments justify using public funds to preserve their most famous export after to beef.

"We are very proud," Hernan Lombardi, the minister of culture of the autonomous city of Buenos Aires told the Associated Press on the phone from the Emirates' capital. "We hope this decision will help spread the tradition of tango all over the world."

Tango emerged as a dance style in the late 1800s in the suburbs of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay. It is popular in Europe, Japan and the United States. The recent spike in tango's popularity throughout the world is in part attributed to the Broadway hit "Forever Tango" and TV's "Dancing With the Stars."

"Tango is a feeling that can be danced, and that feeling of course is passion," Lombardi told the AP on Wednesday.

The popular image - willowy, spike-heeled women spinning, kicking and lunging across the floor in the arms of tuxedo-clad men - is known as show tango. The kind danced in milongas, or tango dance halls, is more waltzlike, but equally sensual.

Argentina and Uruguay have long been embroiled in a clash over the birthplace of the great tango crooner Carlos Gardel. They kicked aside their differences last year in a joint effort to persuade UNESCO to list tango among UNESCO's traditions worth safeguarding for humanity.

India's Vedic chanting and Japan's Kabuki theater are among the dozens of U.N. protected traditions.

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