Qatar’s candidate to head UNESCO is leading a preliminary vote held in Paris on Monday.
But French media outlets are casting doubts over the 19 votes Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari received in the first round of voting.
Kawari is a palace adviser and was his country’s culture minister from 2008 to 2016. He has also served as the ambassador to France, the United States, UNESCO and the UN.
“French media report that Qatar recently invited several members of the UNESCO executive board on an all-expenses-paid trip to Doha,” according to a France 24 report.
It added: “Qatar’s candidacy, which has been promoted with the help of lobby groups such as Portland and ESL & Network, is also seen as controversial in light of the current crisis in the Gulf, which has seen Doha’s neighbors accuse it of sponsoring terrorism.”
UNESCO’s 58-member Executive Board cast secret ballots for seven candidates to replace the organization’s director-general Irina Bokova, whose eight-year tenure expires at the end of December.
Also in the running was Audrey Azoulay of France, who received 13 votes in the first round and Egyptian human rights advocate Moushira Khattab, who garnered 11 votes.
The board will vote over a maximum of five rounds, in a process expected to last about a week. The winning nominee will then be presented to the agency’s general assembly for final approval.
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