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US withdraws from UNESCO, accuses body of 'anti-Israel bias'

AGENCIES
Published : Oct 12, 2017, 7:02 pm IST
Updated : Oct 12, 2017, 7:03 pm IST

The head of UNESCO Irina Bokova voiced 'profound regret' over United States withdrawing from the UN body.

Foreign Policy magazine said the decision was aimed at saving money and to protest what the US believes is UNESCO's anti-Israel stance. (Photo: AFP)
 Foreign Policy magazine said the decision was aimed at saving money and to protest what the US believes is UNESCO's anti-Israel stance. (Photo: AFP)

Paris: The United States on Thursday withdrew  from UNESCO, the UN's cultural and educational agency, dealing a further blow to an organization hobbled by regional rivalries and a lack of funds.

The United States announced its withdrawal from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization, accusing the body of "anti-Israel bias."

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington would establish an "observer mission" to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency.

The head of UNESCO Irina Bokova voiced "profound regret" over United States withdrawing from the UN culture and education body which she called a "loss to multilateralism".

"I wish to express profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO," Bokova said in a statement.

Paris-based UNESCO, which began work in 1946, is known for designating World Heritage sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon National Park. It will pick a new chief this week to try to revive its fortunes.

Three diplomats had said that the United States - which cancelled its substantial budget contribution to UNESCO in 2011 in protest at a decision to grant the Palestinians full membership - would announce its decision in a few days.

Foreign Policy magazine reported earlier on Thursday that Washington would formally withdraw after the 58-member UNESCO Executive Board selects its new director general on Friday.

The magazine said the decision was aimed at saving money and to protest what the US believes is UNESCO's anti-Israel stance.

The United States, which has contributed around $80 million a year to UNESCO, accounting for around a fifth of its budget, still has a vote on the board and is expected to keep an observer status at the organization.

President Donald Trump has in general been critical of the United Nations and complained about the cost and value to the United States of some of its affiliate institutions.

"The absence of the United States or any large country with a lot of power is a loss. It's not just about money, it's promoting ideals that are vital to countries like the United States, such as education and culture," a UNESCO-based diplomat said.

For differing reasons, Britain, Japan and Brazil are among states that have yet to pay their dues for 2017.

After three days of secret balloting that could run until Friday, Qatar's Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari and France's Audrey Azoulay are tied to win the top post at the organization, with Egyptian hopeful Moushira Khattab in third. Two other candidates trail.

Voting lasts over a maximum five rounds. If the two finalists end level, they draw lots.

Tags: united states, unesco, us withdraws from unesco, anti-israel bias
Location: France, Île-de-France, Paris