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Bush Renews Support for Wolfowitz as World Bank Chief

The White House Tuesday issued another statement of support for embattled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz as officials from the international lending institution prepared to meet to discuss his fate. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports Wolfowitz faces allegations of misconduct related to a special pay package for his girlfriend, a bank employee.

The White House does not dispute the fact that World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz mishandled the transfer of his girlfriend to a new higher paying job. But it does say the charges do not warrant his dismissal.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow says President Bush continues to stand by Wolfowitz.

"The fact is that he made mistakes. They are not in our view, firing offenses," he said.

During a session with reporters, Snow made clear he would not get into a discussion of the ethics of the case. He said only that a bank inquiry is underway, and there must be a full and fair representation of the facts.

Snow noted that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been handling the issue for the administration, and has been in contact with his counterparts around the world.

There are signs Paulson is hearing a great deal of opposition to Wolfowitz's continued tenure at the bank, especially from European governments. The New York Times reports, for example, that there is concern that support for major World Bank initiatives could suffer if Wolfowitz stays.

Speaking just hours before Wolfowitz was scheduled to sit down with members of the bank's board of directors, Tony Snow indicated the administration is well aware of what is at stake. He said when the inquiry is over, there should be discussions on the long term direction of the bank.

"We do think it is appropriate for everybody to sit down after the fact, calm down, take a look and figure out how you are going to move forward," added Snow.

On Monday, a special panel made up of seven of the 24 World Bank board members completed its investigation of the charges against Wolfowitz. In its final report, the committee said he broke bank rules and the ethical obligations of his contract.

Wolfowitz, a former deputy secretary of defense and architect of the war in Iraq, was named to the World Bank post in 2005 by President Bush. The president directed him to clean up waste and corruption at the bank, which finances development projects in poor countries.

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