UN reveals Arab-heavy shortlist for cultural agency chief

PARIS: The United Nations has announced an Arab-heavy shortlist for candidates to replace Bulgarian Irina Bokova as head of the world body's cultural agency.

The nine names competing to be Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, include four Arab candidates.

Egypt has been lobbying hard for its choice, former minister Moushira Khattab, after it lost the 2009 nomination to Bokova. She is stepping down this year after two terms.

There has never been an Arab chief in the organization's 72-year-history.

UNESCO is frequently a theater for political disputes between Israel and Arab nations over the status of Jerusalem's holy sites, and some commentators have said a chief from an Arab nation will deepen, not heal, divisions.

France's Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay is also a surprise heavyweight name on the list.