Friday, December 26, 2008

Farouk Hosni and his goal to become UNESCO director-general

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

It was not an easy week for Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni and the members of his 2009 UNESCO election campaign committee. Hosni was caught up in yet another drive against his nomination for the post of UNESCO director-general and its impact lingers on.

Earlier this week a rumour began circulating suggesting that Israel had convinced the current US administration to oppose Hosni's nomination. According to leaks the Bush administration has already started a counter campaign and is keen to convince Barack Obama's incoming administration, as well as some European and Latin American countries, to follow its lead.

The rumours raise two important questions: are they true, and if so, why now?

An official source who requested anonymity confirmed the US position towards Hosni's nomination and told Al-Ahram Weekly that Washington had asked Egypt to reconsider Hosni's candidacy and nominate someone else. Should Hosni succeed in gaining the post, the US and several other countries have threatened to reconsider their relationship with UNESCO.

Official sources also assert that in the corridors of UNESCO's Paris headquarters Israeli representatives have been running after UNESCO members trying to canvas them to vote against Hosni. The sources say the anti-Hosni campaign increased in intensity after a number of Mediterranean, European, African and Asian countries announced their support for Egypt's minister of culture.

Al Ahram Weekly
(Gamal Nkrumah)

With a bit of luck, Culture Minister Farouk Hosni might end up being the next secretary general of the UNESCO. The luck required for this outcome depends to a great degree on the goodwill of the United States of America. Yet eyebrows will be raised both by the timing and by the viscous verbal abuse hurled by the Israelis and their backers in Washington who would not like to see Hosni head UNESCO.

There is truth in that. Pundits in Egypt are unanimous in their support for Hosni's bid for the UNESCO top job.

The nightmare scenario is that Hosni would lose due to deliberate Machiavellian machinations by the Israelis and the Americans. Hosni is as popular as ever among artists and intellectuals in the country. It appears that newspapermen are now backing his bid. He now has a growing throng of supporters among journalists and the public.

Most pundits abhorred the manner in which Washington throws its weight about. Writing in the official daily Al-Ahram, distinguished columnist Salama Ahmed Salama tackled the challenges lying ahead of Hosni's in his quest for the UNESCO's top job.

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