Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Bulgarian beats Egyptian candidate after five rounds of voting at UNESCO

AP , PARIS

A Bulgarian diplomat on Tuesday became the first woman to lead the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), beating out a controversial Egyptian candidate whose one-time threat to burn Israeli books had galvanized opposition.

Irina Bokova, 57, defeated Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny after a suspenseful and drawn-out race, sealing victory in an unprecedented fifth round of balloting at the organization’s Paris headquarters. The vote among the board members was 31 to 27.

The race was tight and closely watched, with a flurry of secretive diplomatic efforts between each round, allegations of fraud and an uproar over Hosny’s candidacy.

For months, Hosny had been considered the favorite. But critics raised Egypt’s contentious record of cultural censorship and highlighted his threat last year to burn Israeli books, a comment he later apologized for.

Bokova’s candidacy took off late in the race as delegates sought a consensus figure.

Hosny and Bokova tied on Monday night — and if Tuesday’s vote had also been a draw, officials were prepared to pick a name at random from a bag.

Bokova is currently Bulgaria’s ambassador to France.

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