Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations, pulled out of the UNESCO director-general race Sunday after three rounds of voting failed to deliver a winner. Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosni is the frontrunner.
AFP - The European Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, on Sunday pulled out of the race to lead the UN culture and education organisation UNESCO.
A former Austrian foreign minister, Ferrero-Waldner was seen as a strong challenger to Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni whose leading candidacy has been clouded by charges of anti-Semitism.
"Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner decided to withdraw in the interest of the organisation and European unity," said a statement from the Austrian embassy.
Envoys at UNESCO's 58-nation executive council started voting Thursday for a successor to Japan's Koichiro Matsuura as director general, with Hosni seen as the favourite.
Ferrero-Waldner, 61, won 11 votes in a third ballot on Saturday, just behind Bulgaria's ex-foreign minister Irina Bokova, who won 13 and was emerging as the main rival.
Egypt's culture minister for 22 years, Hosni secured 25 votes, two more than in the previous round but still short of the 30 needed to win election at the organisation.
Hosni has been struggling to fend off accusations of anti-Semitism, in particular for declaring in parliament last year that he would "burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt."
Date created : 2009-09-20