US withdraws from Unesco, citing 'anti-Israeli bias'

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PARIS: The United States on Thursday announced its withdrawal from the UN's cultural agency Unesco, citing what it described as anti-Israeli bias at the 71-year-old world heritage body.

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, known for designating World Heritage Sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon National Park.

"This decision was not taken lightly and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at Unesco, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation and continuing anti-Israel bias," State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Hours later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would quit too.

Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova expressed her disappointment: "At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the US to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack," she said.

"This is a loss to the US family. This is a loss for multilateralism." - REUTERS

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