UNESCO candidate regrets "book-burning" comment

Wed May 27, 2009 3:11pm EDT
 
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By Sophie Hardach

PARIS (Reuters) - Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, a candidate for the top job at the United Nations culture agency UNESCO, apologized on Wednesday for calling for Israeli books to be burned.

Hosni's bid for the post of UNESCO director-general provoked the anger of a group of intellectuals who accused him of anti-Semitism in a French newspaper column last week.

Writing in the same newspaper, Le Monde, Hosni said he regretted his words, adding that they had allowed detractors to associate him with things that he found hateful.

"Nothing is more distant to me than racism, the negation of others or the desire to hurt Jewish culture or any other culture," he wrote.

Philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, film director Claude Lanzmann and Nobel Peace Price laureate Elie Wiesel last week quoted Hosni as saying he would burn Israeli books and calling Israeli culture "inhuman."

"Let's burn these books; if there are any, I will burn them myself before you," they quoted Hosni as telling a member of parliament who had confronted him about the presence of Israeli books in Egyptian libraries last May.

Hosni told media at the time he had meant the comments as "hyperbole."

UNESCO will elect a new director-general in October and Hosni, who has been nominated by the Egyptian government, was viewed as a front-runner to become the Arab world's first head of the Paris-based organization.   Continued...

 
<p>Farouk Hosni, the Egyptian Minister of Culture, speaks to the press before the world premiere of the 'The Princess of the Sun', an animated French-Belgium cartoon about Tutankhamun's reign held at the pyramids in Giza, March 13 2007. REUTERS/Tara Todras-Whitehill</p>