New UNESCO head promises reforms to cut bureaucracy

New UNESCO head promises reforms to cut bureaucracy Sofia  - Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova, the new head of the United Nations culture, science and education agency UNESCO, said on Wednesday that the body "needs reforms" and sent a conciliatory message to the Arab world after defeating an Egyptian favoured for the post.

The 57-year old career diplomat on Tuesday became the first woman to lead UNESCO after winning a hard-fought campaign against controversial Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny.

Bokova, who needs to be formally approved by the UN General Assembly on October 15, said she would continue the reforms already started and initiate new changes to make UNESCO "more efficient and less bureaucratic."

"UNESCO needs reforms," she told the Bulgarian radio Wednesday morning.

Bokova sought to diffuse tensions following the campaign, during which Hosny, who had been regarded as the main contender, was fiercely criticized for earlier anti-Semitic remarks.

"I am a friend of the Arab world and all other regions. UNESCO is a universal organization, with universal goals, and I will do all possible to convince my Arab friends that it is so," she said.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said he saw Bokova's elections as "recognition for Bulgaria."

The Balkan country joined the European Union in 2007, but its image was tarnished last year when Brussels suspended financial support because of widespread corruption. (dpa)