Egypt's Farouk Hosni beaten to UN job

By Jessica Elgot, September 23, 2009
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Farouk Hosni, Egypt's Culture Minister has been defeated in his bid to become Director General of Unesco

Farouk Hosni, Egypt's Culture Minister has been defeated in his bid to become Director General of Unesco

The Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, tipped to become head of Unesco, has been beaten to the post by former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Irina Bokova.

It took a committee five rounds of votes to decide that the new Director General of Unesco, the United Nations’ cultural arm, would be Ms Bokova.

Mr Hosni, who would have been the first Arab to hold the position, has been an outspoken critic of Israel and his campaign was dogged with allegations of antisemitism.

He talked of “burning all Israeli books in Egyptian libraries” and criticised the “infiltration of Jews into the international media”.

Ms Bokova, who is currently the Bulgarian ambassador to France, will be Unesco’s first female Director General.

In its initial response to Mr Hosni’s candidacy, Israel repeatedly insisted it was inconceivable that someone who advocated burning books could head the organisation charged with protecting world culture.

But in May, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dropped Israel’s opposition after a summit meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian newspapers called Mr Hosni’s defeat “a clash of civilizations” and slammed the “Jewish lobby” for influencing the decision.

Last updated: 12:57pm, September 23 2009