Egypt's culture minister says a Western conspiracy "cooked up in New York" prevented him from becoming the next head of the UN's agency for culture and education.

Farouk Hosny says "European countries and the world's Jews" wanted him to lose.

He spoke to reporters at the Cairo airport Wednesday upon his return from Paris.

A Bulgarian diplomat on Tuesday became the first woman to lead UNESCO, beating out Hosny in a close race.

For months, Hosny had been considered the favorite, but critics raised Egypt's record of cultural censorship and highlighted the minister's threat last year to burn Israeli books - a comment he later apologized for.

Irina Bokova's candidacy took off late in the race as delegates sought a consensus figure.