The World Bank's board of directors on Thursday unanimously approved Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to be the next president of the 184-nation lending institution. The bank's new president was a controversial pick for many, especially those opposed to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, because he was one of major architects of the war.
The World Bank's executive board met in Washington and issued a statement approving President Bush's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz. Mr. Wolfowitz will replace James Wolfensohn, who has served as Bank president for the last ten years, on June 1st.
The deputy U.S. defense secretary is best known as the one of the major figures in the U.S.-led war in Iraq. But, the new World Bank chief has held a number of other high-profile posts in the academic world and in the U.S. government:
"He is a skilled diplomat, worked at State Department in high positions, was Ambassador to Indonesia -- where he did a very good job of representing our country," said President Bush.
But Mr. Wolfowitz is a controversial figure. Europeans were upset with his role in the war in Iraq. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently expressed these sentiments to President Bush: "I told him enthusiasm in Europe might be limited, but that Germany would conduct itself very constructively and wouldn't kill the appointment of Mr. Wolfowitz."
Other critics say Mr. Wolfowitz does not have an adequate background in economic development. But, no nation opposed his nomination.
The U.S. government traditionally nominates World Bank presidents, while Europe chooses the head of the International Monetary Fund. But Mr. Wolfowitz says he will not pursue a strictly American agenda as president of the global organization.
"I believe deeply in the work of the Bank. Helping people to lift themselves out of poverty is truly a noble mission and nothing is more gratifying than being able to help people in need," says Mr. Wolfowitz.
In a statement issued to the press Mr. Wolfowitz said he was "humbled" to have been entrusted with the leadership of the international lending institution.