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France regrets US decision to withdraw from UNESCO


France regrets US decision to withdraw from UNESCO

French authorities on Thursday said they regretted a decision announced earlier by the United States that it was withdrawing from UNESCO amid American accusations that the UN body was anti-Israeli.

"We regret the American decision to withdraw from UNESCO during a period when the support of the international community for this organisation is primordial," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said she "deeply regretted" the US departure and she said this would hurt UNESCO but also the United States.

France, which hosts here in Paris the UNESCO headquarters, was particularly disappointed by the US move, even if the American budget contribution has been suspended for some years because Washington objected to UNESCO admitting the Palestinian Authority as a full member.

The US normally provides 22 percent of the UNESCO budget and diplomatic sources said hundreds of millions, maybe even USD 800 million, were owed by the US to the UN body.

The timing of the decision is also damaging for UNESCO, which is currently in the process of electing a new Director General to replace Bokova at the end of this month.

Nationals from France and Qatar are leading the race for the top job in the organisation and final voting is to take place shortly.