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Egyptian diplomat leads race to be UNESCO head

Moushira Khattab (L) and Vera El-Khoury Lacoeuilhe.
JEDDAH: An Egyptian diplomat is among the favorites to be the next head of UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency.
Moushira Khattab, 73, a former minister of family and population and a leading activist for women’s and children’s rights, is one of four Arab candidates. The others are Vera El-Khoury from Lebanon, Saleh Mahdi Al-Hasnawi from Iraq and former Qatari Culture Minister Hamad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Kawari.
If Khattab wins, she would be the first person from Africa to lead UNESCO in its 72-year history.
She is a former assistant minister of foreign affairs and ambassador to South Africa, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“Ambassador Moushira Khattab has long diplomatic experience, and she knows how to deal with many files related to many humanitarian issues and therefore can very much meet the requirements of the new position,” Malek Awny, managing editor of Al-Ahram Foundation’s International Politics Journal, told Arab News.
“I think that the changes that have taken place in the Arab scene during the last few months may witness an Arab stance that strongly supports Ambassador Khattab.”
African support from neighboring countries also increased the likelihood of Khattab’s winning the post, said Awny. “Egypt’s evolving position on the Arab and African arena may be an important voting bloc that supports the ambassador’s candidacy.
“I think she is the best and most capable to perform such task.”
Al-Kawari, the cultural adviser to the emir of Qatar and former ambassador to France, the US and the UN, was his country’s first culture minister from 2008 to 2016.
His chances may be damaged by the dispute between Qatar and the Anti-Terror Quartet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain over Doha’s support and funding for terrorism.
Voting by secret ballot of UNESCO’s 58-member executive board begins in Paris on Monday. If no candidate wins a majority, voting will continue daily until Oct. 13, when there will be a final choice between the two remaining candidates with most votes.
If the result is a tie, the winner will be chosen by drawing lots. The new director-general will be confirmed at the UNESCO General Conference in November.

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