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French candidate picked as next UNESCO chief

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A view shows the headquarters of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris

Arab countries have long wanted to lead UNESCO.

UNESCO's executive board has chosen France's Audrey Azoulay as the Paris-based United Nations agency's new chief, rejecting a candidate from Qatar who was seen as the front-runner a day earlier.

Beijing, Oct 13 China has withdrawn its candidate for the position of UNESCO chief in favour of Egypt's nominee, a day after the USA and Israel quit the UN's cultural body accusing it of being biased against the Jewish state.

The Qatari and French candidates, Hamad bin Abd elaziz alKawari and Audrey Azoulay garnered 18 votes each, Khattab garnered 13 votes, China's candidate Qian Tang 5 votes, and Lebanon's Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe 4 votes.

The former minister of culture Audrey Azoulay was elected director-general of UNESCO on Friday during a vote in Paris.

Al-Kuwari topped the voting and qualified for the final round.

The final vote between Azoulay and Al-Kawari will take place later on Friday, with a toss in case of a tie. They note that UNESCO has had European, Asian, African and American chiefs, but never an Arab one since the organization was founded in 1945 following World War II to promote world peace through culture.

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The victor must be approved by UNESCO's 195 member states in November, though this is seen as a formality.

Egypt's foreign ministry has demanded an inquiry into alleged "violations" during the UNESCO voting.

The two went on to say that UNESCO's Executive Board "appears to be squandering the chance to put those ideals and values ahead of base political considerations", and urged members to vote for an alternative candidate.

Spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks when asked to comment on the decisions of the USA and Israel to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

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.

Haley also criticized UNESCO for "keeping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protesters".

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