USA drops out of Unesco over arrears, 'anti-Israel bias'

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington Wednesday

The US claims it's leaving the organization in protest of UNESCO's anti-Israel bias.

Unesco director-general Irina Bokova, who is Bulgarian, expressed "profound regret" at the decision and said the departure was a loss for "the United Nations family" and for multilateralism.

UNESCO is best known for its work to preserve heritage, including maintaining a list of World Heritage sites, and programmes to promote education in developing countries.

The United States announced on Thursday that it is pulling out of UNESCO because of what the Trump administration sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for "fundamental reform".

The US stopped paying dues to the global body in late 2011 after the agency voted to accept a Palestinian bid for full membership and now owes approximately $550 million, a State Department spokesperson said.

Ms. Bokova, in a telephone interview, said she "thought the decision was coming but why now, I don't know, in the midst of elections" for a new director to replace her. "We deeply regret that the United States chose to leave UNESCO", the communique said.

As stated in the statement issued on Thursday by the chief of the press service of the US State Department, Heather Nauert, the decision will come into force on December 31, 2018.

And a year ago, Israel suspended cooperation with it after the agency adopted a controversial resolution which made no reference to Jewish ties to a key holy site in Jerusalem.

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She said the US pulling out is a loss for the United Nations and for worldwide alliances.

Haley says the U.S.'s view from 1984 when President Ronald Reagan also withdrew from UNESCO holds true today: "U.S. taxpayers should no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense".

Behind them in the secret ballot was an Egyptian career diplomat, Moushira Khattab, with 13 votes, and Tang Qian of China with five, according to results posted on Unesco's website.

Nauert also clarified that, in accordance with the charter of UNESCO, the decision on "the United States withdrawal will enter into force on December 31, 2018".

The United Nation's education, cultural and scientific agency has passed several resolutions against Israel.

In addition, the Trump administration's proposed budget for the next fiscal year contains no provision for the possibility that Unesco funding restrictions might be lifted.

The resolution also criticised Israel's activities at holy places in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

"UNESCO is about promoting our ideals and values through culture, education and science", France's United Nations ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters in NY, adding that "we need an America that stays committed to world affairs".

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