Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Qatari candidate reaches final round in UNESCO chief vote

Qatari candidate reaches final round in UNESCO chief vote

Azoulay narrowly beat Qatar's Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in the final 30-28 vote after she won a run off against a third finalist from Egypt earlier Friday.

On Wednesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Egypt Today that Qatar was using its considerable financial muscle to to win votes on the executive board.

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. On Thursday, the US and Israel said they plan to pull out of the Paris-based organization over its perceived anti-Israel bias.

However, UNESCO does not observe the kind of rotation by world region which is used when choosing a UN secretary general.

UNESCO's executive board has chosen France's Audrey Azoulay as the Paris-based United Nations agency's new chief, rejecting a candidate from Qatar who was seen as the front-runner a day earlier.

The vote was a huge blow to Arab states, who had long wanted to lead the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. If two candidates remain tied at the end, lots are drawn to decide the victor.

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Jewish groups have taken issue with al-Kawari's candidacy, citing a preface he wrote to a 2013 Arabic book called "Jerusalem in the Eyes of the Poets" that they claim is anti-Semitic.

The voting process itself has been highly politicized.

The two went on to say that UNESCO's Executive Board "appears to be squandering the chance to put those ideals and values ahead of base political considerations", and urged members to vote for an alternative candidate.

Paris - The French and Qatari candidates will contest the final round of the election for Director-General of UNESCO later Friday after Egypt's candidate was eliminated.

While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal from UNESCO for months, the timing of the State Department's statement Thursday was unexpected. UNESCO says the USA now owes about $550 million in back payments.

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