Runoff vote to be held between Egyptian, French candidates for UNESCO election

Runoff vote to be held between Egyptian, French candidates for UNESCO election

On Thursday, just before the final round of votes, the U.S. said it planned to pull out of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization citing among other things its anti-Israel bias.

The last round of balloting, at institution's headquarters in Paris, would be representative of Qatar, Hamad Al-Kawari, to French Audrey Azoulay.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry made the request at a meeting on Friday with incumbent UNESCO chief Irina Bokova, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Zeid added. Azoulay received 31 votes, compared to 25 for Egyptian human rights activist Moushira Khattab.

The Qatari and French candidates, Hamad bin Abd elaziz alKawari and Audrey Azoulay garnered 18 votes each, Khattab garnered 13 votes, China's candidate Qian Tang 5 votes, and Lebanon's Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe 4 votes.

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

French media reported that Qatar recently invited several members of the UNESCO executive board on an all-expenses-paid trip to Doha. The United States is pulling out of UNESCO because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for "fundamental reform" of the U.N. cultural agency.

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Vietnam's Pham Sanh Chau had dropped out of the race Wednesday, having scored five votes in the second round.

The next leader will have to allay fears over UNESCO's future as the agency faces a withdrawal from both the USA and Israel.

UNESCO has been accused of bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it infuriated Israel and staunch ally the United States by granting full membership to Palestine in 2011.

On Wednesday, a prominent American Jewish organization charged that the Qatari frontrunner has sponsored "projects and programs with blatant anti-Semitic content."

Arab countries have complained that UNESCO has never had a boss from their region.

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

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