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Bush Backs World Bank Chief Wolfowitz

President Bush is backing the embattled head of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, who is under pressure to resign for increasing the salary of a former employee who was his girlfriend. VOA White House correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

World Bank directors say they will have a speedy decision on the fate of Wolfowitz, who has admitted boosting the salary of girlfriend Shaha Riza.

The World Bank prohibits romantic relations between workers and supervisors. Riza was given a job at the U.S. State Department when Wolfowitz took over at the World Bank in 2005, but not before she received a pay raise of more than $60,000, from $132,000 to more than $193,000.

Wolfowitz apologized to World Bank staff.

"I made a mistake for which I am sorry," he said. "But let me also ask for some understanding. Not only was this a painful personal dilemma, but I had to deal with it when I was new to this institution, and I was trying to navigate in uncharted waters."

The Bank's board of directors says its ethics committee did not review a recommendation by Wolfowitz two years ago to increase the woman's salary.

President Bush nominated Wolfowitz for the job in 2005. Before that, he worked at the U.S. Defense Department, where he played a key role in pushing for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino says Wolfowitz has the president's full confidence.

"He has done a remarkable job at the World Bank, where they are working to lift people up out of poverty from around the world," she noted. "He has apologized for the matter, and his board is undergoing an internal review. And we expect him to remain as World Bank president. He has the president's support."

A staff association at the World Bank is calling on Wolfowitz to resign, saying he has compromised the integrity and effectiveness of the bank and destroyed trust in his leadership.

Wolfowitz tried to address employees Thursday about the matter, but left after staff members hissed, booed and chanted for him to resign.