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Decision on Wolfowitz's Tenure as World Bank President Expected This Week


Paul Wolfowitz, a scholar and former number two at the U.S. Defense Department, is expected to learn this week whether he will retain his position as president of the World Bank, the world's biggest development institution. Wolfowitz has been ensnared in a controversy involving his role in arranging a generous pay and promotion package for his female companion, a bank employee. VOA's Barry Wood has more.

When Paul Wolfowitz arrived at the World Bank two years ago he made fighting third world corruption his battle cry. Now he is fighting a different kind of battle.

Colin Bradford follows the World Bank at the Brookings Institution, a Washington research organization. "I mean it is just totally inconsistent to advocate one thing for other countries to do and then in terms of your own personal behavior feather your own bed, take care of your own people and so on, in the way that he did. It is blatant cronyism," he says.

Ironically, Wolfowitz became involved in finding a new position for his companion, Shaha Riza, to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

"I made a mistake for which I am sorry," Wolfowitz said in a public apology.

The bank's 24-member executive board has reportedly concluded that in arranging a new job for Riza, Wolfowitz violated bank procedures. But Gene Rotberg, who served 19 years as World Bank treasurer and senior vice-president, says Wolfowitz's problem only minimally involves his female companion.

"I suspect that the main reason is rather straight forward,” said Rotberg. “It is Iraq. It is his failure even now to admit that he was wrong, that he made a mistake and that he caused great damage."

Many of the bank's over 5,000 professional staff say Wolfowitz's effectiveness in leading the bank has been irreparably damaged. Gene Rotberg agrees.

"Because if the countries say your effectiveness is damaged, if the staff say your effectiveness is damaged, then by definition you are damaged."

By tradition Europe chooses the head of the International Monetary Fund and the United States the president of the World Bank. President Bush has been standing firm for Wolfowitz. "My position is that he ought to stay," said the president.

Other world leaders have been silent. But several Africans have voiced support for Wolfowitz. Antoinette Sayeh is Liberia's finance minister. "He has been absolutely supportive, responsive, there for us, making advocacy that is absolutely essential."

Wolfowitz said last month that he will respect the decision of the bank's executive board. "I didn't hide anything that I did and, as I said, I am prepared to accept any remedies that the board wants to propose."

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