Economy

French culture minister Audrey Azoulay, to lead UNESCO

French culture minister Audrey Azoulay, to lead UNESCO

Stressing that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was going through hard times, Azoulay said, "In a time of crisis, we need to be more involved than ever, seek to strengthen it, and not leave it".

UNESCO's executive board voted 30 to 28 in favor of Azoulay, rejecting Qatar's Hamad Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Kawari, who has been accused of anti-Semitism.

The US announcement this week that it is quitting Unesco rocked the multi-day election and heightened concerns about the agency's funding and future direction. After election was guaranteed to participate in final round of 2 people, Qatari candidate was in late afternoon session with Egyptian Moushira Khattab and managed to pass him by 6 votes.

If confirmed by UNESCO's 195 member-general assembly next assembly next month, Azoulay will succeed outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, whose eight-year term was marred by financial woes.

Two Arab candidates and France's former culture minister vied to become the new head of the UN's embattled culture and education agency on Friday, a day after the United States quit the body, accusing it of anti-Israel bias.

"Now more than ever UNESCO needs a project... which restores confidence and overcomes political divisions", the foreign ministry said in a statement reacting to the United States pullout.

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In the face of Arab divisions, France has presented Azoulay as a consensus figure who could mend fences within the organisation and sooth tensions caused by recent resolutions against Israel.

The outcome was a blow for Arab states that have long wanted to lead the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. "And not leave it", she said.

"Local newspapers Al-Sharq and Arrayah said Qatar's candidate leading in the vote until the last round was a victory for the State of Qatar and a great loss for the siege countries which spared no effort to topple the Qatari candidate".

Azoulay started the week with much less support than al-Kawari but built up backing as other candidates dropped out.

Egypt's foreign ministry says it is demanding an inquiry into alleged "violations" during the elections for the top position at the U.N.'s cultural agency.


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