US President George W. Bush is expected to choose a new World Bank president this week to succeed Paul Wolfowitz, who is resigning on June 30 after an ethics scandal.
Topping most lists of possible candidates is Robert Zoellick, a former US trade representative and former deputy secretary of state who left government to join investment bank Goldman Sachs, followed by the deputy secretary of the US Treasury, Robert Kimmitt.
“I think we’re getting pretty close,” White House spokesman Tony Snow, travelling overnight with Mr Bush aboard Air Force One, said.
Asked if it could happen this week, Mr Snow said: “Likely, yes.”
Despite pressure from Brazil and other developing countries to open the candidacy to any nationality, Mr Bush has insisted the next president will be an American.
By tradition the United States chooses the World Bank president; European countries select the head of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.
But the nomination must be approved by the bank’s 24-member board of governors.
Europeans – who were particularly critical of Mr Wolfowitz and backed the drive to oust him from the bank – nevertheless continue to support that Washington maintain its role in naming the World Bank president.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, in charge of finding the candidate, has indicated he will consult with colleagues around the world, signaling sensitivity to opinion after the roiling crisis at the bank.
However, the development community is suggesting non-American candidates such as outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Kemal Dervis of Turkey, current administrator of the United Nations Development Program; and Trevor Manual, the South African finance minister.