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Assaf named goodwill UN ambassador

June 22, 2013 11:45 P.M. (Updated: June 26, 2013 12:20 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Mohammad Assaf, the first Palestinian to win the popular Arab Idol TV singing contest, will also become the UN's first Palestinian goodwill ambassador.

A diplomatic source in Beirut, where MBC's Arab Idol is filmed, told Ma'an the agreement was signed days ago to make Assaf the first-ever Palestinian refugee to become a goodwill UN ambassador, becoming the Palestine refugee agency UNRWA's first-ever regional youth ambassador, the source said Saturday.

"A man with a golden voice is going to take the Palestinians' voice to the universe. At long last, a fantastic story out of Gaza that will touch the hearts of the world," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the ambassadorship had not yet been announced.

"It is is a wonderful day for Palestine and for the UN."

Thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza celebrated in the streets late Saturday after the judges announced this year's winner. They also launched fireworks.

Assaf, a 23-year-old from Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, has become a household name in Palestine.

In an interview as he prepared for the final stages of the show, he thanked his fans in Palestine for their support.

"If I keep thanking you forever it is never enough," Assaf said, promising to do his best to keep entertaining his fans.

He also thanked Palestinian leaders for their encouragement, particularly those who came to Beirut to watch him perform in the show.

"Their presence gave me more energy to move on and sing better and represent Palestine in its beautiful image," he said.

As he succeeded in the final stages of the show, Assaf received phone calls from President Mahmoud Abbas and former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The president urged Palestinian communities across the world to vote for Assaf, and instructed the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs to contact embassies to mobilize support for the Arab Idol star.

Assaf said he would first return to his home in the Gaza Strip after the competition and later perform three shows in West Bank cities.

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