Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz virtually sealed his election as World Bank president yesterday after meeting with members of the bank's board, who were impressed and reassured by his answers to their questions, according to bank sources.
In the process, though, Wolfowitz's march to the bank presidency has sparked jockeying among foreign officials over other jobs, with European officials pressing for a European to get the No. 2 post at the bank, according to several bank sources. Wolfowitz told European board members yesterday that he recognized the need for a top management position to go to someone from their countries, European sources said. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.
Paul D. Wolfowitz is said to have impressed World Bank board members.
(Yuri Gripas -- Reuters)
Responding to a query about the reported remark, Wolfowitz said in a statement relayed by a spokesman, "Senior management needs to reflect the diversity of the bank, to include the Europeans as well as the developing nations."
Wolfowitz's presentation to the Europeans, and a separate session with board members from developing countries, were the latest in a series of steps he has taken to defuse the controversy that erupted last week when President Bush announced his selection to head the giant development lending institution.
The United States traditionally gets to choose the president of the World Bank, as part of an informal arrangement in which the Europeans select the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. But such nominations must be approved by the boards that represent the two institutions, each of which has 184 member nations. Because Wolfowitz was a key architect of the Iraq invasion, his nomination was denounced in many quarters as a move by Washington to use the bank as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. The bank lends about $20 billion annually to developing countries for projects aimed at raising living standards.
In a bid to head off serious opposition to his candidacy, Wolfowitz has emphasized in public statements and interviews that he is deeply committed to the bank's mission of eradicating poverty, that he recognizes he will be accountable to all the member nations, and that he admires much of the legacy of outgoing president James D. Wolfensohn. Reiterating and elaborating on those positions yesterday, Wolfowitz "was at his best -- very charming, humble, saying for every question, 'If I'm chosen president' . . . 'If the board approves my candidacy,' " a European source said. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of the highly charged nature of the matter.
The chances for a European challenge virtually evaporated on Monday when German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that his government would not block the nomination and that Wolfowitz might prove to be a pleasant surprise as bank chief. That still left open the possibility of a revolt by developing countries, who have long complained about the control rich nations exercise over the World Bank and IMF. But that prospect appeared to vanish yesterday after a meeting Wolfowitz had with the G-11, a group of directors representing developing countries. A statement issued by the group after the meeting was noncommittal, describing Wolfowitz's responses to their questions and saying that the directors "are briefing their governments and consulting with them on this nomination."
But an official from a developing country said there is unified agreement among G-11 member nations that they will not try to put up a candidate against Wolfowitz, as they did last year when a new IMF head was named. One reason, the official said, was that the developing countries are aware of the European desire to get the deputy's job, and a Third World challenge to Wolfowitz would only give the Europeans extra leverage. "It would have meant an even higher imbalance" between the growing economic importance of developing countries and their lack of clout at the World Bank and IMF, he said.
Currently, the No. 2 job at the bank, with the title of managing director, is held by Shengman Zhang, a Chinese national. At the IMF, the United States has traditionally held the top deputy's position.