Qatar, France neck-and-neck for UNESCO chief

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Egypt's candidate for the position of UNESCO director-general, Moushira Khattab, was out of the race on Friday after failing to move on to the final round of voting.

China on Friday said it will continue working for the development of the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisations (UNESCO), a day after the USA announced it was pulling out of the Paris-based agency.

The withdrawal of the U.S., which is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO's funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organisation founded after World War II to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.

Khattab came third in the ballot after Qatar's Hamad al Kawari and France's Audrey Azoulay, who won 20 and 13 votes respectively.

The victor must be approved by UNESCO's 195 member states in November, though this is seen as a formality.

Three other candidates remain in the fray Â- Azerbaijan's Polad Bulbuloglu, Guatemala's Juan Alfonso Fuentes Soria, and Vietnam's Pham Sanh Chau.

Most of the candidates acknowledge the need to reform the 71-year-old organisation whose bloated bureaucracy is accused of inefficiency.

Azoulay will now face off against Qatar's Hamad Al-Kawari in a vote due to be held at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT).

But in 2011 relations soured again after UNESCO admitted Palestine as a full member, prompting the United States to cut its funding to the organisation, leaving a gaping hole in its finances.

The proceedings have been overshadowed by the USA decision, announced Thursday, to withdraw from the agency. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said al-Kawari "is unqualified to lead an institution whose mission is to strengthen ties between nations, promote dialog and understanding among diverse cultures and religions and protect the heritage of all peoples throughout the world". If votes are equal for both, the director general will be chosen through a lot.

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