UNESCO headquarters in Paris
UNESCO headquarters in Paris Reuters

A diplomat from Qatar is the leading contender to head UNESCO, the UN's cultural agency, AFP reported Tuesday.

Qatari diplomat Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari is leading after two rounds of voting to pick the next head of the UN's cultural body, according to the news agency.

France's Audrey Azoulay, a former culture minister like al-Kawari, came in second place among the six candidates still in the running to replace outgoing UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova.

Al-Kawari garnered 20 votes from the 58 board members gathered in Paris since last Friday, according to results posted on Twitter by board chairman Michael Worbs of Germany on Tuesday.

Thirty votes are needed to clinch the nomination to head the Paris-based UNESCO.

The candidate selected by the board must be approved by UNESCO's 195 member states in November, but this is seen as a formality, noted AFP.

UNESCO is notorious for its anti-Israel bias, and it infuriated Israel and the United States by granting full membership to “Palestine” in 2011.

In addition, the agency has passed a series of anti-Israel resolutions, including ones declaring the Old City of Hevron to be an “endangered Palestinian heritage site”, as well as resolutions which bluntly ignore the Jewish connection to the city of Jerusalem.

This week, however, Israel scored a victory at UNESCO, as its board was set to meet and, for the first time since April 2013, not vote on any anti-Israel resolutions.

AFP noted that Arab countries have long complained that UNESCO has never had a boss from their region, but UNESCO does not observe the kind of rotation by world region which is used when choosing a UN secretary general.

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