CAIRO, October 10 (RIA Novosti) - Libya said on Saturday it will cut all forms of cooperation with the United Nations agency for culture and education (UNESCO) if a Bulgarian nominee is confirmed as the UNESCO new director general.
Irina Bokova, Bulgaria's permanent representative to UNESCO, has been chosen by the body's executive after five rounds of voting. Her nomination will be put to the UNESCO General Conference on October 15, when she is expected to be confirmed the first woman to head the organization.
"Libya does not agree with the election of a Bulgarian citizen to the post of the UNESCO director general and is planning to stop all cooperation with this organization and pull out from all UNESCO committees," Libya's JANA news agency quoted Abdelkebir Fakhri, the head of the Libyan General People's committee on education and scientific research.
Bokova, 57, beat out front-runner Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, whose candidacy had caused outrage over a comment last year in which he said he would burn any Israeli book he found in Egypt's Library of Alexandria, Austria's Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European commissioner for external relations and European neighborhood policy, and another two candidates.
The longtime Bulgarian diplomat, who in the past served as the country's foreign minister, studied at the prestigious Moscow State Institute for International Relations.
Experts have linked Libya's tough stance on the Bokova issue with a scandal involving five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who were found guilty of infecting more than 400 children with the deadly HIV virus in a Bengazi hospital in the late 1990s.
The medics were found guilty and sentenced to death twice, first in 2004 and then in 2006 after a court appeal.
Bulgaria, the European Union and the United States insisted that the defendants were being used as scapegoats to deflect attention from the poor state of Libya's health service.
Foreign experts, backed up by international scientific reports, testified in court that the infections began before the medics' arrival, and were caused by poor hygiene in the Bengazi hospital.
Libya's Supreme Court overturned the last possible appeal in July 2007, upholding the death sentences, but the Libyan High Judicial Council's ruling later commuted the foreign nationals' sentences to life imprisonment, and Libyan authorities suggested that deportation to Bulgaria was a possibility.
Bulgaria made an official request for Tripoli to repatriate the medics to serve their sentences in Bulgaria. Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov pardoned the medics immediately upon their arrival in the country.
Compensation totaling $1 million for each infected child has been paid to the 460 children's families. Fifty-six of the children have died. The cash was raised by an international fund financed mainly by the EU and the U.S.