France's Audrey Azoulay wins vote to be next UNESCO chief

France's Audrey Azoulay wins vote to be next UNESCO chief

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.

UNESCO's next chief will come from either Qatar or France as candidates were winnowed down ahead of a decisive vote Friday on the future of the United Nations cultural agency.

Arab states had been lobbying hard to get an Arab candidate elected as UNESCO's director-general.

The withdrawal of Qian in favour of Egypt should give Khattab 18 votes, which would put her on a par with two other leading candidates - Qatar's Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari and France's Audrey Azoulay, it said.

Egypt's candidate for the post of Director-General of UNESCO, Moushira Khattab, passed the third round of the organization's elections held in Paris, France, where no candidate has gained an absolute majority of votes so far. They note that UNESCO has had European, Asian, African and American chiefs, but never an Arab one since the organization was founded in 1945 following World War II to promote world peace through culture.

Al-Kawari came first in the ballot, with 20 out of 58 votes on UNESCO's Executive Board.

China had nominated Qian, who has been serving as assistant director general of UNESCO since April 2010, to be the agency's head, but chose to withdraw after the latest round of voting yesterday, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

Egypt's foreign ministry has demanded an inquiry into alleged "violations" during the UNESCO voting.

The victor must be approved by UNESCO's 195 member states in November, though this is seen as a formality.

The agency's inclusion of Palestine as a member state in 2011 complicated this push, as did Qatar's diplomatic dispute with Arab neighbors over accusations of sponsoring Islamic extremism.

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

Haley also criticized UNESCO for "keeping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protesters".