UNESCO director regrets United States plan to leave agency

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UNESCO is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions around the world.

The US State Department confirmed the country is officially withdrawing from UNESCO, the UN's cultural body it helped found back in 1945.

The State Department says the U.S.is pulling out of UNESCO because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and need for "fundamental reform" of the United Nations cultural agency.

According to the report, the move, which is expected to be announced as early as next week, would allow the U.S. to remain as an observer state in the organization that it helped establish after World War II.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for UNESCO by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of UNESCO by senior U.S. officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.

The decision will come into force on December 31, 2018. The U.S. will seek to have a "permanent observer" status instead.

If it does withdraw from UNESCO, the USA would remain as an observer state in meetings. It was not clear when the move would be formally announced.

USA has stopped funding the UNESCO over issues related to Palestine in 2011. UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is going to vote this week to choose a new director.