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Pressure Grows for Wolfowitz to Leave World Bank


The directors of the World Bank have promised a speedy decision on the fate of Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, as employees express outrage over a favoritism scandal.

The Bank's board of directors says its ethics committee did not review a recommendation by Wolfowitz two years ago to increase the salary of a former bank employee who was his girlfriend.

Critics say it is hypocritical that Wolfowitz has been traveling around the world lecturing a number of leaders about corruption, while he was personally involved in securing a substantial pay raise - from $132,000 a year to $193,000 a year, tax-free - for his girlfriend.

Wolfowitz apologized Thursday for his actions, telling reporters he made a "mistake." He tried to address employee representatives, but quickly left after staff members hissed, booed and chanted "resign."

A staff association at the bank has called for Wolfowitz to resign. The group said he "compromised the integrity and effectiveness" of the bank and "destroyed the staff trust in his leadership."

The World Bank's board released a statement early Friday detailing its review involving Wolfowitz's girlfriend, Shaha Riza. She was given a job at the U.S. State Department when Wolfowitz took charge of the bank in 2005. World Bank rules ban romantic involvement between workers and supervisors.

Wolfowitz has been a controversial figure because of his role as a leading advocate for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

President Bush nominated Wolfowitz for the top job at the bank. A White House spokesman said today the president has confidence Wolfowitz.

Long-term staff members and board members of the World Bank say Wolfowitz did not consult them about his broad anti-corruption drive, which included suspending aid for a time to India, Chad, Kenya and other countries.

Also on Thursday, Wolfowitz acknowledged the need to reorganize his personal office, where his closest aides have been criticized for a lack of expertise in international development and for their close ties to the Republican Party.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.