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World Bank's Wolfowitz Says He is Victim of Smear Campaign


Paul Wolfowitz, the embattled president of the World Bank, Monday appeared before a bank ethics panel and said he is a victim of a campaign to drive him from office. VOA's Barry Wood reports.

Wolfowitz told a bank investigating panel that he will not resign and that he had not improperly pushed through a generous pay package for his female companion, a bank employee. The panel also heard testimony from the woman, Shaha Riza, who was reassigned outside the bank when Wolfowitz became its president in 2005 to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Many bank staff and senior officials say Wolfowitz should resign.

Wolfowitz, one of the planners of the U.S. war in Iraq when he was deputy defense secretary, Monday received a ringing endorsement from President Bush.

"My position is that he ought to stay," said President Bush. "He ought to be given a fair hearing. I appreciate the fact that he has helped the World Bank recognize that the eradication of poverty is an important priority for the bank."

President Bush spoke following a White House meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose representative at the bank has not voiced support for Wolfowitz.

"This [discussion about Wolfowitz] ought to be a very transparent, very candid conversation [inside the bank]," said Angela Merkel. "This, I think, is where this issue belongs."

Wolfowitz and the U.S. administration take the view that the bank president is unpopular mainly because of his association with the Iraq war. European governments have taken the lead in seeking his resignation, saying the bank's effectiveness in fighting corruption has been compromised by the controversy. Wolfowitz has made fighting corruption his main priority.

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