The Latest: US withdraws from UNESCO citing anti-Israel bias

AP

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  • FILE - In this Monday Oct. 17, 2016 file picture, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization logo is pictured on the entrance at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris. U.S. officials have told The Associated Press that the United States is pulling out of UNESCO, after repeated criticism of resolutions by the U.N. cultural agency that Washington sees as anti-Israel. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

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    Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, Qatar's candidate for the election of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization new leader, smiles at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. UNESCO's executive board is choosing a new leader to replace departing director Irina Bokova, whose tenure was marred by funding troubles and tension over its inclusion of Palestine as a member. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

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    Demonstrators hold placards as they stage a protest against Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari Qatar's candidate of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization new leader outside the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. UNESCO's executive board is choosing a new leader to replace departing director Irina Bokova, whose tenure was marred by funding troubles and tension over its inclusion of Palestine as a member. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

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    Demonstrators hold placards as they stage a protest against Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari Qatar's candidate for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization new leader outside the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. UNESCO's executive board is choosing a new leader to replace departing director Irina Bokova, whose tenure was marred by funding troubles and tension over its inclusion of Palestine as a member. Placard reads, "we do not negotiate with the terrorist". (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

  • FILE - In this Monday Oct. 17, 2016 file picture, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization logo is pictured on the entrance at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris. U.S. officials have told The Associated Press that the United States is pulling out of UNESCO, after repeated criticism of resolutions by the U.N. cultural agency that Washington sees as anti-Israel. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

  • 1

    Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, Qatar's candidate for the election of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization new leader, smiles at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. UNESCO's executive board is choosing a new leader to replace departing director Irina Bokova, whose tenure was marred by funding troubles and tension over its inclusion of Palestine as a member. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

  • 2

    Demonstrators hold placards as they stage a protest against Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari Qatar's candidate of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization new leader outside the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. UNESCO's executive board is choosing a new leader to replace departing director Irina Bokova, whose tenure was marred by funding troubles and tension over its inclusion of Palestine as a member. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

  • 3

    Demonstrators hold placards as they stage a protest against Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari Qatar's candidate for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization new leader outside the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. UNESCO's executive board is choosing a new leader to replace departing director Irina Bokova, whose tenure was marred by funding troubles and tension over its inclusion of Palestine as a member. Placard reads, "we do not negotiate with the terrorist". (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS (AP) The Latest on the U.S. decision to pull out of UNESCO (all times local):

3:15 p.m.

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 U.N. cultural agency.

In a statement, the State Department said it notified UNESCO director Irina Bokova on Thursday of the decision. The U.S. will seek to have a "permanent observer" status instead.

It says the withdrawal will take effect Dec. 31, 2018. The United States suspended its UNESCO funding in 2011 over its vote to include Palestine as a member, and now owes about $550 million in back payments.

U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and that it was not discussed with other countries but an internal U.S. government deliberation.

The officials, who were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue, said U.S. is notably angry over UNESCO resolutions denying Jewish connections to holy sites and references to Israel as an occupying power.

____

2:40 p.m.

U.S. officials have told The Associated Press that the United States is pulling out of UNESCO, after repeated criticism of resolutions by the U.N. cultural agency that Washington sees as anti-Israel.

While the U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011, the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office at its Paris headquarters and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. The withdrawal was confirmed Thursday by U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to be publicly named discussing the decision. It was not clear when the move would be formally announced.

The decision comes as the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is voting to choose a new director this week, in tense balloting overshadowed by the agency's funding troubles and divisions over Palestinian membership.

  

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