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Wolfowitz Hangs On As Ouster Hits Wall
The board had hoped to resolve the matter and take action, perhaps declaring a lack of confidence in Wolfowitz or even firing him, by last night. But the board adjourned just before noon at the request of the American executive director, Eli Whitney Debevoise II, said an official briefed by a European board member who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A senior Bush administration official later said the United States had requested the delay to allow Wolfowitz to step down, preempting board action against him. For several hours, the bank buzzed with news that Wolfowitz was on his way out via a deal. At 2:30 p.m., the board went back into session, and when the members came out about three hours later, no agreement had been reached.
The Bush administration's decision to negotiate an end to Wolfowitz's tenure came in recent days, as it became clear the White House is virtually alone in supporting him. Nearly all board members have endorsed the findings of the committee's report, officials said, with even Canada, traditionally a reliable U.S. ally, breaking with the administration.
Signs mounted that Wolfowitz has lost his ability to lead the institution. Germany's development minister effectively disinvited Wolfowitz to a meeting scheduled next week in Berlin to discuss Africa. Asked specifically whether Wolfowitz would attend, the German minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said: "I would not advise him to do so," adding that he "would do a good service to the bank if he were to resign."
Wolfowitz has apparently scrapped a trip today to Slovenia, where he was scheduled to attend a development event. He was to deliver an award to graduate students who wrote essays exploring the troubles of corruption in the developing world, bank officials said.
A day after telling reporters that all options were open for discussion in terms of the bank's future leadership, White House spokesman Tony Snow yesterday called the ongoing crisis a "bruising episode" for the World Bank, which seeks to end global poverty.
"What you have to do is figure out a way forward to maintain the integrity of the institution," Snow said. "And, therefore, when you do it, you're going to discuss everything. That's what you would normally do."
Staff writers Karen DeYoung, Glenn Kessler and Al Kamen contributed to this report.