The bitter infighting behind the election of UNESCO's new director general

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Former French culture minister Audrey Azoulay was elected as the new director general of UNESCO on Friday, in a narrow victory over her Qatari rival Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari. Azoulay’s election to the top post at the UN science, education and culture agency was the result of a profound divide among its Arab member states, and served a severe blow to Qatar’s ambitions of influence on the world stage. René Backmann witnessed first-hand the tensions during the six rounds of voting, which at one point almost ended in a fist fight, and in this report of the events he analyses the tough tasks ahead for Azoulay amid the decision by the US and Israel to quit the organisation.

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It was at the end of six arduous rounds of voting that former French culture minister Audrey Azoulay, 45, was elected as the new director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Friday, a process which deepened divisions among the governments of Arab nations and delivered a humbling blow to Qatar’s ambitions of extending its influence on the world stage.