PARIS (AP) - The director of UNESCO is expressing "profound regret" at the U.S. government's decision to pull out of the U.N. cultural agency because of what's seen as longstanding anti-Israel bias.
Director-general Irina Bokova said in a statement that the departure is a loss for "the United Nations family" and for multilateralism. She said the U.S. and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever now because "the rise of violent extremism and terrorism calls for new long-term responses for peace and security."
A native of Bulgaria, Bokova defended UNESCO's reputation, noting its efforts to support Holocaust education and train teachers to fight anti-Semitism. She traced the decades-long U.S. ties with UNESCO, and noted that the Statue of Liberty is among the many World Heritage sites protected by the U.N. agency.
Bokova's two terms as director have been deeply scarred by the 2011 UNESCO vote to include Palestine as a member, funding troubles and repeated resolutions seen as anti-Israel.