Egypt out of race for UNESCO chief, endorses French candidate

Valeriy Sharifulin  TASS

Valeriy Sharifulin TASS

"UNESCO is going through a profound crisis", Azoulay told journalists on Friday after making it to the final vote.

Azoulay will now face off against Qatar's Hamad Al-Kawari in a vote due to be held at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT).

France's Audrey Azoulay poled 31 votes at a run-off vote of the UNESCO executive board members against 25 for Egypt's Moushira Khattab.

The proceedings have been overshadowed by the USA decision, announced Thursday, to withdraw from the agency.

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Thirty votes are needed to clinch the nomination to head the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

UNESCO's general assembly will have to sign off on the board's pick.

The victor must be approved by UNESCO's 195 member states in November, though this is seen as a formality. Candidates from Guatemala, Iraq and Azerbaijan have also given up.

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. "Audrey!" following her victory and said the response to UNESCO's problems was to reform the agency, not to walk away - an understated rebuke of the USA and Israel.

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On Wednesday, a prominent American Jewish organization charged that the Qatari frontrunner has sponsored "projects and programs with blatant anti-Semitic content." On Thursday, the USA and Israel said they plan to pull out of the Paris-based organization over its perceived anti-Israel bias.

UNESCO has been critical of Tel Aviv in the past, and its decision to nominate the West Bank city of Hebron as a Palestinian world heritage site angered Israel, which wanted its long Jewish history to be recognised.

Declining to reveal why China withdrew its candidate Qian Tang, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here that China backs UNESCO in selecting a director general qualified according to the United Nations body's rules and regulations and meets the expectations of all its members.

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