updated 9/23/2009 1:29:15 PM ET 2009-09-23T17:29:15

Egypt's culture minister on Wednesday blamed a conspiracy "cooked up in New York" by the world's Jews for keeping him from becoming the next head of the U.N.'s agency for culture and education.

Farouk Hosny was defeated on Tuesday by Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova in a tight race for the position of UNESCO chair.

"It was clear by the end of the competition that there was a conspiracy against me," Hosny told reporters at the airport upon his return from Paris.

"There are a group of the world's Jews who had a major influence in the elections who were a serious threat to Egypt taking this position," he said.

The tight race was closely watched, with a flurry of secretive diplomatic efforts between each round, allegations of fraud and an uproar over Hosny's candidacy.

While Hosni was cited as a favorite for months before the election, Bokova gained ground at the last minute as other candidates dropped out, partly amid attempts to consolidate support for a strong challenger to the Egyptian candidate.

The outcry against Hosny focused on his threat in the Egyptian parliament last year to personally burn any Israeli book he found in Egypt's famed Library of Alexandria.

Hosny, a painter who has been Egypt's culture minister for more than two decades, made the comment in an attempt to defend himself against charges by Egyptian lawmakers of being soft on Israel.

In a damage control tactic, Hosny wrote in the French newspaper Le Monde that his book burning comments were made without "intention or premeditation," and should be viewed in the context of his indignation at the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Bokova joined her Foreign Ministry's U.N. and disarmament department in 1976, and was her country's foreign minister for a brief period in 1996-1997. She witnessed Bulgaria's transformation from Eastern Bloc nation to European Union member.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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