Qatari former culture minister tipped to head UNESCO
Qatari diplomat Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari has emerged as the leading contender to become the new head of the UN's cultural body.
After two rounds of voting Kawari led the way with France's former Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay in second place. There are six candidates still in the running to replace outgoing UNESCO Director-general Irina Bokova.
Kawari managed to pick up 20 votes from the 58 board members gathered in Paris since last Friday, according to results posted on Twitter.
The former Qatari culture minister needs 30 votes to become the new head of the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (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.
Azoulay won 13 votes in the secret ballot, while Egyptian career diplomat Moushira Khattab got 12 votes to come third, who has come under fire from human rights groups.
China's Tang Qian and Vietnam's Pham Sanh Chau each scored five votes, while Vera El-Khoury of Lebanon won three.
If no candidate wins an outright majority after four rounds of voting, it goes to a run-off between the top two.
Most of the candidates acknowledge the need to reform the 71-year-old organisation whose bloated bureaucracy is accused of inefficiency.
UNESCO has been accused of bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly after Palestine became a full member in 2011.
Israel and ally the US suspended their funding to the agency - best-known for its prestigious World Heritage List - over the move.
Arab countries have complained that UNESCO has never had a boss from their region.