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France

Voting for top job enters fourth round amid charges of anti-Semitism

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-09-21

Voting on who will fill the top spot at UNESCO has entered a fourth round after the front-runner, Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni (pictured), again failed to win the nomination amid charges that he has a history of making anti-Semitic comments.

Delegate voting for a candidate to fill the top spot at the UN cultural agency has entered a fourth round after the front-runner, Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni, again failed to win the nomination.

 

Bulgarian ex-foreign minister Irina Bokova remains Hosni's only challenger after a string of candidates left the field after earlier rounds last week.

 

Egypt's controversial candidate, 71, is seeking to become the first representative from the Arab world to head the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) but failed to win the required backing in a third vote on Saturday in a process that has been tainted from the beginning by charges of anti-Semitism.

 

Hosni's 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.
  
European delegates have been negotiating among themselves to try to come up with a single candidate against Hosni.

 

In his long career, Hosni has often been accused of promoting anti-Semitism, in particular when he told the Egyptian parliament in May last year: "I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt."

 

Hosni later apologised for his comments in French daily Le Monde, calling them "hyperbole".
   
Global understanding through culture


Envoys at UNESCO's 58-nation executive council started voting Thursday for a successor to Japan's Koichiro Matsuura as director general, with Hosni, Egypt's culture minister for 22 years, seen as the favourite.

 

UNESCO is mandated with promoting global understanding through culture, education and science.
   
Supporters say the Egyptian's election would send a positive signal from the West to the Muslim world.
   

On Saturday Hosni secured 25 votes, two more than on Friday, but still short of the 30 needed to win election, even after four candidates dropped out following the second round, according to a diplomat at the organisation.
 
Ecuador's Ivonne Baki pulled out of the race on Monday and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner withdrew on Sunday. Lithuania's Ina Marciulionyte dropped out before Saturday's vote, along with Russia's Alexander Iakovenko and two Africans, Sospeter Mwijarubi Muhongo of Tanzania and Noureini Tidjani-Serpos of Benin.
   
The appointment is to be endorsed in October by the 193-member assembly of UNESCO.
   
 

Date created : 2009-09-21

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