- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

Departing World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has offered to give up his major policy and personnel responsibilities, as well as his responsibilities for day-to-day running of the bank’s board, as the board considers what to do between now and the June 30 effective date of his resignation.

He announced his resignation late Thursday.

Mr. Wolfowitz’s offer comes on the heels of a call for him to be placed on administrative leave and for the appointment of an acting president by the bank’s Staff Association, which represents the bank’s more than 10,000 employees and had been pushing for Mr. Wolfowitz’s resignation since April.

It is not clear whether the bank’s board, which met yesterday, would accept the offer.

According to a World Bank staff source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Mr. Wolfowitz outlined the offer in a letter to the board that was posted on the World Bank’s intranet yesterday.

The source read portions of the letter to The Washington Times on the phone, including the following passage:

“I do not plan to continue routine briefings on policy issues and would expect that the appropriate [managing director] will make any required policy decisions in consultation with their senior management colleagues and the board. I believe all country manager and director personnel decisions have been completed for the spring, so I have no expectation of being involved in these or any other personnel actions.”

The source characterized the letter as indicating that Mr. Wolfowitz would hand over policy, personnel and board responsibilities to bank managing directors and vice presidents, adding that the list of responsibilities he would retain would be “pretty slim.”

The bank’s board discussed arrangements, but adjourned its meeting yesterday without giving any indication of its reaction to Mr. Wolfowitz’s offer. It is not certain when they will meet again, although the source suggested they likely would resume Monday.

In announcing Mr. Wolfowitz’s resignation Thursday, the bank’s executive directors said they accepted Mr. Wolfowitz’s statements that “he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution,” although “a number of mistakes were made by a number of individuals.”

The Staff Association described Mr. Wolfowitz’s resignation as “welcome,” but “not acceptable under the present arrangement. It completely undermines the principles of good governance and the principles that the staff fight to uphold.”

In addition to placing Mr. Wolfowitz on leave and appointing an acting president, the employees’ group said that if the board’s decision stands, “in order to protect staff and safeguard against any retaliation, the board should also ensure that Mr. Wolfowitz is prevented from making any decisions affecting the work of the bank or its staff.”

The Bush administration said it wants to move quickly on the replacement and is leaving the door open to a non-American nominee.

“No one is the favorite, there are lots of ideas out there but we have lots of time,” said a Bush administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

By tradition, the bank has been run by an American, while its sister agency, the International Monetary Fund, is run by a European. The United States is the bank’s largest shareholder and its biggest financial contributor.

Potential successors whose names are circulating include former U.S. Trade Representative and Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert M. Kimmitt, former Assistant Secretary of State and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Robert D. Hormats, former Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Martin Feldstein, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and U.N. Development Program Administrator Kemal Dervis.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said yesterday the administration wants to move “swiftly” to choose a replacement.

“We want to make sure that we are selecting the best individual for the job. We want someone who has a real passion for lifting people out of poverty. The magnitude of the challenge in that effort at the World Bank, and what we do on a bilateral basis, is just enormous,” he said.

Asked whether President Bush might choose a non-American to replace Mr. Wolfowitz, Mr. Fratto responded, “Potentially? Sure. It’s the president’s choice.”

Rumors have been circulating in recent days about the possibility of outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair following Mr. Wolfowitz.

When asked about whether Mr. Bush discussed the prospect of taking the World Bank post with Mr. Blair during his visit last week, Mr. Fratto said he was not aware of any such discussion.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who will work with the president on finding a successor to Mr. Wolfowitz, said, “I will consult my colleagues around the world as we search for a leader.”

The 185-nation bank, created in 1945 to rebuild Europe after World War II, provides more than $20 billion a year for projects such as building dams and roads, bolstering education and fighting disease. The bank’s centerpiece program offers interest-free loans to the poorest countries.

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