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Cablegate: Unesco Director General Campaign: Jordanian and Indian

C O N F I D E N T I A L   UNESCOPARI   12092227
DE RUEHFR #2227/01 3441639
P 091639Z DEC 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS FR 002227


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/09/2018

REF: (A) PARIS FR 2202
(B) PARIS FR 2209
(C) PARIS FR 2220


1. (C) SUMMARY: During a meeting with Ambassador Oliver, the
Jordanian Ambassador to UNESCO said that Egypt will move ahead with
its candidate for the next Director General (DG) of UNESCO unless it
decides that its candidate, Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni, would
have serious difficulty getting elected. At a lunch organized by the
French Ambassador to UNESCO, concerns about Mr. Hosni were expressed
by Brazil, India, and Greece, while China and France repeated the
fact that their countries have not yet given formal support to Mr.
Hosni, as was stated in an interview given by Mr. Hosni published in
the Egyptian weekly, Al-Ahram. End Summary.

2. (C) Ambassador Oliver met with Jordan's Ambassador to UNESCO and
France, Dina Kawar, on December 5 to discuss the race for UNESCO's
next DG. Ambassador Oliver told Ambassador Kawar that although the
U.S. could not support Mr. Hosni, it had no problem with an Arab
candidate. In response to a question from Ambassador Kawar as to the
reasons for the U.S. concerns with Mr. Hosni, Ambassador Oliver
stressed that the U.S. was very uncomfortable with some of Mr.
Hosni's public statements and the fact that he seemed to be
controversial and provocative. Ambassador Oliver added that some of
the comments in the introduction to an interview given by Mr. Hosni
to the Al-Ahram magazine were of concern as well.

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3. (C) Ambassador Kawar said that it was very important that the
U.S. confirm the truth of its concerns, as opposed to being
influenced by rumors and gossip. She added that if the concerns of
the U.S. were valid and serious, a discreet conversation with the
representative of the Arab League in Paris, Dr. Nassif Hitti, might
be a good idea since the head of the Arab League is Egyptian.
Ambassador Kawar also confirmed that Prince Hassan Bin Talal is not a
candidate for the DG position, as had been rumored. (Comment:
Mission strongly supports the suggestion that verifiable information
relating to U.S. concerns about Mr. Hosni be provided to the Mission.
After that has been done, if appropriate, Ambassador Oliver will
meet with Dr. Hitti with whom she has a friendly relationship. End
Comment.) The Jordanian Ambassador gave no indication as to whether
she was aware of the U.S. demarche that had been delivered in Amman
relating to U.S. opposition to Mr. Hosni's candidacy.

4. (C) Many comments concerning the DG race were made at a a lunch
hosted on December 5 by the French Ambassador to UNESCO, Catherine
Colonna, for the UNESCO Ambassadors of Brazil, China, Greece,
Morocco, India, and the U.S. When asked whether the candidacy of
Senator Chrisovam Buarque was a serious possibility, the Brazilian
Ambassador Joao Carlos de Souza-Gomes, replied that it was because
President Lula da Silva's party was a minority in the Senate, and the
Brazilian President needed to work with the Senate. However,
Ambassador Souza-Gomes added that it all depended on whether Mr.
Buarque could transform the support of a few Senators into a
broad-based majority.

5. (C) The UNESCO Ambassador from India, Ms. Bhaswati Mukherjee,
said that relations between India and Egypt were at a thirty year
low, and that India would look very favorably on a Brazilian
candidacy, as it thought that Mr. Hosni was very provocative. The
Indian Ambassador also said that it was of great concern that Jews
were specifically targeted for the first time in the recent terrorist
attacks in Mumbai. Ambassador Mukherjee added that she understood
that the Russian Ambassador Vladimir Kalamanov, also had a very
negative opinion of Mr. Hosni. (Comment: Since there will be a new
Russian Ambassador to UNESCO in January, it is hard to know whether
the Russian position will stay the same. End Comment) When the
Ambassadors of China and France were asked whether their countries
had given support to Mr. Hosni's candidacy as has been claimed, both
of them said that the reports were misleading and that their
countries did not yet have official positions on the DG race. The
Ambassador of Greece, George Anastassopoulos, told Ambassador Oliver
that as President of the General Conference, he could not make public
statements on the DG race, but that privately he had grave concerns
about Mr. Hosni.

6. (C) COMMENT: It is obvious that as of now, Mr. Hosni does not
have much support from some of the most powerful countries at UNESCO,
something the Egyptians must be aware of. If the Egyptians decide to
press on with their candidacy, it is likely that Mr. Hosni will begin
to spend more time at UNESCO. A Latin American country like Brazil
may be a good alternative, though it would probably mean adding
biofuels to UNESCO's work. In addition, because of geographical
rotation, Argentina's Minister of Education Mr. Daniel Filmus is
supposed to be the next President of the General Conference, despite
the fact that he speaks no English and almost no French. Moreover,
he is not very effective as the current Chairman of the Executive
Board's PX Commission, and has little interest in anything except
debt relief. That would mean that Latin America would have both the
DG slot and the President of the General Conference, UNESCO's two
most important positions.

UNESCOPARI 12092227 002 OF 002

7. (C) COMMENT continued: In addition, Cuba will probably continue
as the Chairman of the NAM at UNESCO, and Venezuela will be the next
Chairman of the G77 plus China. When Ambassador Oliver asked how
Venezuela was chosen for the G77, the response was that the
Venezuelans had insisted on it, and that nobody felt comfortable
challenging them. The Brazilian Ambassador, who served in Venezuela
for four years and worked closely with the American Ambassador during
that period, shrugged his shoulders and looked at Ambassador Oliver
with an embarrassed smile. The same thing happened several years ago
when Cuba insisted on representing GRULAC on the Bureau of the
International Program for the Advancement of Communication, UNESCO's
program that promotes freedom of expression. Even though the GRULAC
was embarrassed by this, the Latin American countries said that due
to "bilateral reasons", they had no choice. If the U.S. promotes a
Latin American candidate, it must be an individual who can stand up
to regional pressure. Moreover, since it seems that the possible
price for a Latin American DG might be increased influence by
Venezuela and Cuba, the U.S. would have to insist on a very
high-level position at UNESCO.


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