Wolfowitz refuses to quit Bank, wants name cleared
Lesley Woughten – Reuters May 16, 2007
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz refused on Wednesday to bow to heavy European pressure to resign as he sought to clear his name in negotiations with the bank's board over a possible exit strategy.
"Mr. Wolfowitz will not resign under this cloud and he will rather put this matter to a full (board) vote than to capitulate on his integrity," his lawyer Robert Bennett told Reuters.
Several European countries have said Wolfowitz should step down to salvage the bank's credibility, which they say has been damaged by his handling of a high-paying promotion for his companion, bank Middle East expert Shaha Riza.
The controversial former deputy U.S. defense secretary and architect of the Iraq war has insisted he acted in good faith on the advice of a board ethics committee in overseeing the promotion of Riza and has said he wants it to acknowledge its own failures.
A board panel found his efforts on her behalf broke bank rules and represented a conflict of interest.
Board sources said talks were launched on Wednesday over how to push the dispute to a close. Some members have suggested a resolution that would recognize the panel's findings and Wolfowitz's efforts to resolve the conflict of interest issues over Riza, but also acknowledge mistakes by the board.
However, the board adjourned until Thursday without a decision.
Under a contract he signed in June 2005 when he became World Bank president, Wolfowitz would receive a year's salary, or around $375,000, if his service were terminated by the board or if he resigned.
PRESSURE TO RESIGN
Pressure to resign intensified on Wednesday as European countries signaled they would resist a bid by the United States to keep Wolfowitz in the job.
Wolfowitz had been scheduled to attend a meeting of the Group of Eight finance ministers in Germany this weekend.
But German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said Wolfowitz was not welcome to take part in a two-day World Bank forum on development aid for Africa that starts on Monday in Berlin.
"He would do the bank and himself a great service if he resigned," Wieczorek-Zeul, one of Wolfowitz's strongest critics, told reporters in Berlin.
"It would be the best thing for all concerned."
European countries have had misgivings about Wolfowitz since his nomination by President George W. Bush in 2005, at the height of bitter tensions between the White House and Europeans over the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The White House publicly maintained its support for Wolfowitz on Wednesday.
"We stand by our support of Paul as the World Bank president," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
Tensions increased after the U.S. administration tried to a cut a deal that would have separated consideration of Wolfowitz's ethics violations from a decision over whether he had the credibility to continue, but only Japan out of the G7 countries sided with the United States.
G7 sources said most board members wanted a quick resolution to the protracted dispute, which has paralyzed the bank for more than a month.
Wolfowitz negotiating departure
UPI – May 16, 2007
Paul Wolfowitz planned to resign as World Bank president and was negotiating the terms of his departure Wednesday afternoon, a published report said.
Wolfowitz was seeking a public acknowledgement of his service to the bank, The Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site.
He also wanted a statement that both he and the bank shared responsibility for the tensions stemming from allegations he improperly pushed for raises and promotions for his girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza, a longtime bank employee, shortly after he assumed the World Bank presidency in June 2005.
The bank board planned to convene Wednesday morning to deliberate on Wolfowitz`s fate after meeting with him late Tuesday. But that session was delayed at the request of the bank`s U.S. representative.
Also Wednesday, Wolfowitz canceled plans to travel to Europe this week for a World Bank conference on development, the Journal said.
The White House signaled late Tuesday it would consider a change in leadership at the bank, saying Wolfowitz`s ability to lead the institution might be fading.
Last updated 17/05/2007