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Egypt, Bulgaria compete for top job in final round

Video by Jessica Lemasurier

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-09-22

Voting to elect a new UNESCO president enters its fifth and final round Tuesday, after Egyptian Faruq Hosni's candidacy was clouded by accusations of anti-Semitism. His main rival is former Bulgarian FM Irina Bokova.

AFP - Controversial Egyptian candidate Faruq Hosni and Bulgaria's former foreign minister Irina Bokova face each other Tuesday in a final round of voting for UNESCO's top job in a race clouded by an anti-Semitism row.
   
A fourth round of voting on Monday by the UN culture body's executive council ended in a draw, a UNESCO spokeswoman said, with neither Hosni, accused of making anti-Jewish comments, nor Bokova, picking up enough votes.
   
If neither candidate receives the required 30 votes from the 58 nations represented on the council in Tuesday's ballot then lots will be drawn to pick the successor to Japan's Koichiro Matsuura as the head of the UN culture and education organisation.
   
On Monday, Ecuador withdrew its candidate, after European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner pulled out on Sunday, narrowing the field from an original nine to two.
   
Supporters of Hosni say the Egyptian's election would send a positive signal from the West to the Muslim world, but the race has been clouded by charges that anti-Israel comments made last year make him unfit for the role.
   
His detractors include Auschwitz survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who says Hosni's appointment would "shame" the global community, as well as the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre and US and French intellectuals.
   
Egypt's culture minister for 22 years, Hosni has long been front-runner in the race for the job but the charges of anti-Semitism of anti-Semitism have clouded his candidacy.
   
UNESCO's executive council started voting last Thursday for a successor to Matsuura as director general.
   
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."
   
Hitting back at charges of anti-Semitism, Hosni has insisted his comments were part of an angry exchange in parliament with hardliners from the Muslim Brotherhood and were taken out of context.
   
The Egyptian minister is seeking to become the first representative from the Arab world to head the UN agency which is mandated to promote global understanding through culture, education and science.
   
The appointment is to be endorsed in October by the 193-member assembly of UNESCO.
   

Date created : 2009-09-21

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