Still determined to punish and isolate Egypt for its peace treaty with Israel , militant Arab states have successfully pressued two United Nations specialized agencies into closing down and transferring their regional offices that for decades have been located in Cairo.
Arab demands for the closure of a third UN body in Egypt, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional office for the eastern Mediterranean in Alexandria have been referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
But already, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have decided to move their regional headquarters from Cairo. The FAO moved its entire office , which served all of the Arab world, to Rome more than a month ago, while the UNESCO office in Cairo, a regional center for Arab scientific research is scheduled to pull out and reestablish itself in Paris in mid-August.
UN agencies will continue to be represented in Cairo but in most cases only as local offices serving Egypt alone.
The removal of the regional offices from Cairo is further indication of the contempt Arab leaders feel for the Egypt- Israel peace treaty and the lengths they are willing to go to embarrass Egypt for having signed it.
Although the loss of the UN agencies is likely to have little impact on the lives of most Egyptians, it nonetheless is a blow to the prestige of a proud city. It will make it harder for Egyptian leaders to claim that Cairo is the capital of the Arab world.
But Egyptian officials stoutly deny that the removal of the UN regional centers will make any difference at all.
"We consider it a temporary thing," one Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "a decision taken under financial pressure from the Arabs. But our strategic international position, our role in the Arab world, is not going to be changed by moving the WHO or the FAO."