Qatar, France neck-and-neck for UNESCO chief

France, Qatar neck-and-neck for UNESCO chief

French Jewish candidate Audrey Azoulay beat out her Egyptian competition for the right to compete in the final round of voting for the position of UNESCO director-general on Friday evening.

"The results of the fourth round of the UNESCO election are 22 votes for Qatar, 18 for Egypt and 18 for France", he wrote on Twitter.

France's Audrey Azoulay poled 31 votes at a run-off vote of the UNESCO executive board members against 25 for Egypt's Moushira Khattab.

The victor to be selected on Friday will succeed outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova, whose 8-year term leading the United Nations cultural agency was marred by financial woes and criticism over Palestine's inclusion as a member.

Azoulay will now face off against Qatar's Hamad Al-Kawari in a vote due to be held at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT).

The final vote comes the day after the USA and Israel said they plan to pull out of the Paris-based organization over perceived anti-Israel bias.

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Arab countries have long wanted to lead the organization, but the Palestine issue has complicated the election. She is also a former minister of family and population.

The secret ballot vote was held in Paris on Friday afternoon by UNESCO's 58-member execute board.

Both countries suspended their funding to the agency - best-known for its prestigious World Heritage List - over the move, and on Thursday announced that they would withdraw from the organization.

However, UNESCO does not observe the kind of rotation by world region which is used when choosing a UN secretary general.

While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal from UNESCO for months, the timing of the State Department's statement Thursday was unexpected.

UNESCO has been accused of bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it infuriated Israel and staunch ally the United States by granting full membership to Palestine in 2011.

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