Egypt out of race for UNESCO chief, endorses French candidate


She is also a former minister of family and population.

The proceedings have been overshadowed by the USA decision, announced Thursday, to withdraw from the agency.

Israel itself announced shortly afterwards that it would follow suit.

The Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari and France's Audrey Azoulay are neck and neck following the third round of voting, with Egypt's Moushira Khattab following in third place.

Arab states had been lobbying hard to get an Arab candidate elected as UNESCO's director-general.

There have been four rounds of voting already and another two are expected to produce a victor on Friday.

In the face of the Arab divisions, France presented Azoulay as a consensus figure who could mend fences and soothe tensions caused by recent resolutions against Israel. More than ever, UNESCO needs an initiative that resonates with all member states, that will restore confidence, overcome political divisions and be dedicated exclusively to UNESCO's key missions.

Lebanon's candidate Vera El-Khoury, who bowed out at the fourth round of voting, told AFP that the power game at play in the race had shown UNESCO members "did not give a damn" about the candidates' programmes.

The election of UNESCO's new chief has been narrowed down to two candidates, one from Qatar and the other from France.

The decision will not go into effect until December 2018 and there is some speculation that the United States could change its mind if UNSCO ends its politicized behavior and takes steps to reform the organization.

Three candidates aer in the running to succeed UNESCO's head Irina Bokova of Bulgaria.

Arab countries have long wanted to lead UNESCO.