Bulgaria's former foreign minister Irina Bokova (photo) won the top job at the UN's cultural agency on Tuesday, beating Egyptian Farouk Hosni. The heavily disputed race was clouded by accusations of anti-Semitism against her Egyptian rival.
AFP - Bulgarian former foreign minister Irina Bokova won the top job at the UN culture agency Tuesday after a race clouded by anti-Semitism accusations against her Egyptian rival, a UNESCO official said.
Bokova was elected director general of the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation after five rounds of voting by UNESCO's executive council that finally eliminated her main rival, Faruq Hosni.
Hosni, currently Egypt's culture minister, has been dogged by anti-Semitism accusations after saying last year that he would burn Israeli books.
The vote by UNESCO's 58-nation executive council gave Bokova 31 votes and gave 27 to Hosni, a diplomat said.
Bokova is a former communist turned europhile who has represented Bulgaria on UNESCO's board since 2007 and is also ambassador to France and Monaco.
When she takes over from Japan's Koichiro Matsuura -- after her appointment is endorsed in October by UNESCO's 193-member assembly -- she will become the body's first woman boss and its first from the former Soviet bloc.
The multilingual 57-year-old, who helped draft her country's new constitution after the fall of Communism, served briefly as foreign minister in 1996-1997 and has worked at UN headquarters in New York.
Nine candidates were in the running when UNESCO's council began voting last Thursday, including European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who was seen as a favourite.
But they dropped out one by one until only Bokova and Hosni were left.
Hosni's supporters had said his election as the first Arab head of UNESCO, which has a mandate to promote global understanding through culture, science and education, would send a positive signal from the West to the Muslim world.
But his detractors, who include Auschwitz survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, said his appointment would "shame" the global community.
Date created : 2009-09-22