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Controversial Egyptian Loses UNESCO Vote

The Egyptian favorite to run UNESCO has in the last hour failed in his attempt to become head of what is supposed to be the world’s leading educational and cultural organization. Among other things, he had called for the burning of Israeli books.
But then running a state censorship operation, as he has done for decades, ought to be a disqualification from the post in the first place.

Also, the generally reliable Arabic-language website, on Saturday published what it said were private admissions by Hosny that when he was the Egyptian cultural attaché in Rome, he helped to organize the escape from Italy in 1985 of the hijackers of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. In that episode, a retired American Jewish tourist in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer, was shot and pushed into the sea, where he drowned.

Below, from The New York Times.

September 23, 2009

Controversial Egyptian Loses Unesco Vote

By Steven Erlanger

PARIS — In a fifth and final round of voting, a Bulgarian diplomat narrowly defeated Egypt’s culture minister for the leadership post at Unesco on Tuesday night, ending a bitterly fought contest in which critics of the Egyptian candidate accused him of anti-Semitism and censorship.

The victor, Irina Bokova, 57, won by a vote of 31 to 27 to be the new director-general of Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Her opponent, Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny, 71, had been considered the favorite to win.
A race that began with nine candidates, with Mr. Hosny in the lead, was affected by charges against him that he was in favor of burning books by Israelis and keeping restrictions on Egypt’s carefully edited press — incompatible with a United Nations agency that is supposed to defend press freedom.
An alliance of Unesco board members opposed to Mr. Hosny finally coalesced around Ms. Bokova, a former Bulgarian Foreign Minister and currently Bulgaria’s ambassador to France and Unesco, which is headquartered in Paris.
Someone from the Arab world or Eastern Europe has never run Unesco. The new director general replaces Koichiro Matsuura of Japan.

Tom GrossTom Gross is a former Middle East correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and the New York Daily News.


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