UNESCO Head Postpones Israel Visit

Federico Mayor Zaragoza, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has unexpectedly postponed a visit to Israel.

The official visit, which was to be the first by a UNESCO director-general since the early 1950s, was to start Sunday.

UNESCO has had a rocky relationship with Israel, but the election of Mayor to the leadership position was auguring more comfortable relations between the U.N. body and the Jewish state.

It appears that Israel’s recent expulsion of more than 400 Palestinians is to blame for the postponement.

According to well-informed sources, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali personally intervened to request that Mayor not go to Israel, given the recent decision by Israel to deport 415 alleged members of the Islamic fundamentalist movement Hamas.

Mayor was to sign an important agreement between UNESCO and Israel about training of engineers specialized in agriculture in sub-desert areas. The training facilities were to be located in the Negev and eventually accommodate students from Arab countries with no diplomatic relations with Israel.

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