Paul Wolfowitz, the former number two man in the U.S. Defense Department, announced late Thursday that he is resigning as World Bank president. VOA's Barry Wood reports Wolfowitz has been at the center of a six-week long controversy over his personal dealings at the anti-poverty agency.
The resignation followed a day-long meeting of the bank's 24-member executive board. In a statement, Wolfowitz said his resignation was in the best interests of the 185 member-nation bank and would take effect June 30.
A statement from the board said it accepted that Wolfowitz thought he had acted ethically in arranging a promotion and pay increase for his female companion, a bank employee. That two-year old controversy evolved into charges of ethics violations and prompted some European governments to demand his ouster.
Wolfowitz has had a stormy relationship with the bank's professional staff ever since he became president two years ago. While at the U.S. defense department he was a principal architect of the Iraq war that is deeply unpopular among many bank staff, less than 30 percent of whom are American.
President Bush, after weeks of insisting that Wolfowitz should retain his job, Thursday acknowledged that his former associate had lost the battle.
"All I can tell you is I know that Paul Wolfowitz has an interest in what's best for the Bank, and just like he's had an interest in what's best for making sure the Bank focused on things that matter: human suffering, the human condition. I -- and so I applaud his vision, I respect him a lot, and as I said, I regret this has come to this right now," he said.
By tradition, the United States nominates the president of the World Bank, which like its neighbor the International Monetary Fund-which is run by a European, was set up in the aftermath of World War Two. The bank has had only ten presidents and Wolfowitz is the first to be forced to resign.
Wolfowitz's hold on the top job became untenable earlier this week as the bank's board moved towards a vote to remove him. That vote never occurred as Wolfowitz resigned after obtaining a statement that he acted in good faith concerning his companion, British national Shaha Riza. In an unprecedented action, Germany's development minister said Wednesday that Wolfowitz would be unwelcome at a Berlin meeting he was scheduled to attend next week.
There is as yet no indication as to who will replace Wolfowitz as head of the world's biggest development institution.