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Wolfowitz Nomination Receives Mixed European Reaction


The nomination of Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, to become the next World Bank president has received a mixed reaction in European capitals. Some analysts believe it marks a shift in Washington's view of world affairs, but others are not so sure.

European politicians have offered mostly guarded reactions to Mr. Wolfowitz's nomination to replace World Bank president James Wolfensohn, who is due to leave the bank in May.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said only that Mr. Wolfowitz's nomination was among those of other candidates being considered for the job.

Mr. Wolfowitz is the second so-called "neo-conservative" tapped by the Bush administration to fill a high-level international post. Earlier President Bush nominated another perceived hard-liner, John Bolton, as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Sebastian Kurpas is an analyst at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels. He believes Europeans are puzzled by Mr. Wolfowitz's nomination, which follows recent trips to Europe by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that were aimed to improve trans-Atlantic relations.

"I think it gives a bit of a contradictory message because after the visit of Mr. Bush there was much hope in European capitals that [they] would find more common ground," said Mr. Kurpas. "Mr. Wolfowitz does not stand for very good cooperation across the Atlantic in the past. And you might understand the nervousness, 'Why this personality now?'"

But the reaction to Mr. Wolfowitz' nomination has not been all negative. On Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described Mr. Wolfowitz as very distinguished and experienced internationally. If he is selected, Mr. Straw said, Britain will enjoy working with Mr. Wolfowitz.

And some European foreign policy experts describe the nominations of both Mr. Bolton and Mr. Wolfowitz to jobs outside the Bush administration as an effort to reduce hardline-conservative influence in Washington.

Daniel Keohane, an analyst at the Center for European Reform in London, believes they also send a message that so-called political realists, like Secretary Rice, have gained the upper hand within the Bush cabinet. Europeans, Mr. Keohane believes, can work with Ms. Rice.

But Mr. Kurpas is not so certain.

"It remains to be seen," Mr. Kurpas added. "But Condoleezza Rice replaced someone else, Mr. [former Secretary of State Colin] Powell, who was seen as one of the persons that Europeans could best relate to in the past."

Nonetheless, Mr. Kurpas believes the Bush administration is serious about wanting to improve cooperation between the United States and Europe, following strong disagreements over the war in Iraq.

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