Beijing, Oct 13 (PTI) China has withdrawn its candidate for the position of UNESCO chief in favour of Egypt’s nominee, a day after the US and Israel quit the UN’s cultural body accusing it of being biased against the Jewish state.

Declining to reveal why China withdrew its candidate Qian Tang, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here that China backs UNESCO in selecting a director general qualified according to the UN body’s rules and regulations and meets the expectations of all its members.

China’s announcement also followed the decision by the US and Israel to pull out of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in protest at its alleged “anti-Israel bias”.

UNESCO has been critical of Tel Aviv in the past, and its decision to nominate the West Bank city of Hebron as a Palestinian world heritage site angered Israel, which wanted its long Jewish history to be recognised.

The withdrawal of the US, which is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO’s funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organisation founded after World War II to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.

Asked for her reaction to the US and Israeli move, Hua said the goal of UNESCO is to enhance international cooperation in education, science and culture and to promote mutual understanding in these fields.

“China hopes all countries will make contributions in this regard and Beijing will continue its positive role in UNESCO,” she said.

China had nominated Qian, who has been serving as assistant director general of UNESCO since April 2010, to be the agency’s head, but decided to withdraw after the latest round of voting yesterday, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

“China announces the withdrawal of its candidature to UNESCO in support of Egypt,” Egyptian foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid wrote on Twitter.

The head of UNESCO is selected by a vote of its executive board members and Qian got five votes in the third round of voting, while Egypt’s Moushira Khattab got 13 votes, the Post report said.

The withdrawal of Qian in favour of Egypt should give Khattab 18 votes, which would put her on a par with two other leading candidates – Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari and France’s Audrey Azoulay, it said.

Three other candidates remain in the fray Azerbaijan’s Polad Bulbuloglu, Guatemala’s Juan Alfonso Fuentes Soria, and Vietnam’s Pham Sanh Chau.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.