- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

President Bush yesterday nominated Robert B. Zoellick, a former U.S. trade representative and deputy secretary of state, to be president of the World Bank, while defending outgoing president Paul Wolfowitz, who resigned under the cloud of an ethics probe.

“This man is eminently qualified, and when he takes his place at the World Bank he will replace another able public servant, Paul Wolfowitz,” Mr. Bush said.

The president, flanked by Mr. Zoellick and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. — who headed the search to replace Mr. Wolfowitz — commended Mr. Wolfowitz for cracking down on aid given to corrupt governments.

Mr. Bush called Mr. Zoellick “a leader who motivates employees,” in a reference to one of the complaints lodged against Mr. Wolfowitz.

Mr. Wolfowitz, a former Pentagon official who faced opposition because of his affiliation with the Iraq war, was criticized, even privately by some White House officials, for alienating top bank officials by not working closely with them.

Mr. Wolfowitz resigned this month after the bank’s board of directors said he had violated ethics rules by arranging for a promotion and pay raise for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, who worked at the bank.

Mr. Bush said Mr. Wolfowitz had “taken many steps to ensure that the bank can meet the needs of developing nations in this new century” and thanked him for his “dedication to the poor.”

Mr. Zoellick acknowledged the need to reach out to longtime bank employees and officials.

“It will be my aim to work closely with and learn from the institution’s dedicated and talented staff,” said Mr. Zoellick, hailed as an experienced negotiator who will be able to work well with donor countries.

He has experience in Africa, having been a lead U.S. official working to stop the genocide in Sudan when he worked at the State Department from February 2005 to June 2006.

Mr. Zoellick left the State Department last year to take a senior position at the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs.

Mr. Zoellick’s nomination must be approved by the bank’s executive board, and he already has critics.

“Just as Wolfowitz’s main experience in the developing world was protecting U.S. corporate rights in Indonesia, Zoellick distinguished himself at [the Office of the United States Trade Representative] primarily by protecting U.S. pharmaceutical firms in global trade talks,” said John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies. “Neither of these track records prepared either man to tackle poverty.”

The United States is the largest donor to the World Bank’s pool of roughly $22 billion a year in aid, and has traditionally selected the bank’s president, according to an unwritten agreement in which Europe chooses the leader of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.

Initial reaction about the nomination from foreign representatives was positive.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called Mr. Zoellick “the right man for the job.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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