Home News Defeated Egypt candidate accuses UNESCO of being ‘politicised’

Defeated Egypt candidate accuses UNESCO of being ‘politicised’

Published on 24/09/2009

Cairo — Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni lashed out at the United Nations for being "politicised" on Wednesday after losing out in his bid to head UNESCO, as his country’s press charged the vote was proof of a "clash of civilisations."

"The organisation has become politicised," Hosni told reporters at Cairo airport, a day after he lost to Bulgarian Irina Bokova.

"Two votes were taken away. Two votes that were considered … a betrayal," Hosni said after dropping from 29 votes in the fourth round of the election to 27 in the final one.

Many capitals had wanted to support him as a gesture of reconciliation with the Arab world and Islam. France at first supported Hosni but switched in the final round.

"The reality is that we waged a fantastic battle. The Egyptian candidate had the newspapers and Zionist pressures against him every day," he said.

The minister described the race as a battle between north and south.

"The north always has to control the south," said Hosni, adding that "the American ambassador did everything he could" to stop his election.

President Hosni Mubarak followed the race "moment by moment" and after the result he said: "Put everything behind you," Hosni said.

The Egyptian press slammed Hosni’s defeat as proof of a ‘clash of civilisations’.

"A clash of civilisations determines the UNESCO fight," trumpeted the headline in the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.

"America, Europe and the Jewish lobby brought down Faruq Hosni after an honourable competition by the Egyptian delegation."

The unprecedented five-round race for the post culminated in an embarrassing defeat not only for Hosni but for Egypt which had used the minister’s campaign to publicise the cultural richness of the most populous Arab nation.

Cairo had expressed hope that Hosni’s election as the first Arab to head the agency would send a positive signal from the West to the Muslim world.

But the campaign met strong opposition from US and French commentators as well as from Auschwitz survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who said appointing Hosni would "shame" the global community.

"The Egyptian and Arabic candidate for the post was subjected to a ferocious campaign against him by the American administration, under Jewish pressure," said the opposition weekly Al-Ahrar on its front page.

"Faruq Hosni’s campaign was met with an uncivilised attack by Jewish intellectuals in France," state-owned Al-Ahram Al-Messai wrote in its leader column.

Other papers said the result was a symptom of anti-Islamic sentiment.

The election showed that "the West stands against the others on the basis of religion in critical moments," the daily Rose al-Youssef wrote.

It described the election and the US pressure on countries to vote against Hosni as "voting at knifepoint."

In his lengthy political career, Hosni has often been accused of promoting anti-Semitism, in particular in 2008 when he told the Egyptian parliament: "I’d burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt."

Hosni, who has been Egypt’s culture minister for 22 years, insists his comment was made during an angry exchange with hardliners from the Muslim Brotherhood and had been taken out of context.

Nine candidates were in the running when UNESCO’s council began voting last Thursday, including European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who was seen as a favourite.

Hosni led after the first round and remained in the running until being pitted against Bokova in the final showdown.

The decisive vote by UNESCO’s 58-nation executive council gave 31 votes to Bokova and 27 to Hosni.

Ines Bel Aiba/AFP/Expatica