- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Embattled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said yesterday he will continue to lead bank efforts to reduce global poverty, resisting calls to step down over his involvement in securing a huge pay increase for his girlfriend.

“The bank has important work to do and I will continue to do it,” he said at a press conference winding up a meeting of the steering committee for the bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The committee said in its closing communique that the Wolfowitz issue was “of great concern to us all” and called on the bank board looking into the matter to complete its work.

“We have to ensure that the bank can effectively carry out its mandate and maintain its credibility and reputation as well as the motivation of its staff,” the committee said.

In answering questions from reporters about whether he should resign, Mr. Wolfowitz referred several times to the committee’s communique and said he did not want any comments he made to get in the way of the board’s work.

“I believe in the mission of this organization, I intend to carry it out, I have had many expressions of support,” he said.

Several times he was asked how he could continue as head of the 185-nation lending organization leading the fight against corruption after acknowledging a direct role in the pay increase. He referred to the communique.

Earlier, Mr. Wolfowitz said misleading information has been circulating over his involvement in the pay increase.

In an e-mail Saturday night to bank staff, some of whom have called for his resignation, Mr. Wolfowitz said he had remained largely silent as the bank’s board of directors considered his future.

“I feel, however, that this has left a vacuum, which has largely been filled by misleading information” and conceded the 109 pages of documents about the issue released by the board are “a lot to wade through for significant facts so I would like to call your attention to a number of them.”

He attached excerpts that referred to his offer, when he became president of the bank two years ago, to refrain from dealings with his companion, Shaha Riza, who worked in the bank’s Middle East department.

Mr. Wolfowitz included a link to the package of documents, as did a posting on the bank’s Web site Saturday. He has been under fire since it emerged that he secured a $193,590-a-year job for Miss Riza at the State Department soon after he joined the World Bank in 2005.

A deputy defense secretary and one of the architects of President Bush’s Iraq war strategy, Mr. Wolfowitz has been working behind the scenes at the spring meetings of finance ministers and central bankers to drum up support to stay in his post and presented reports to the bank’s policy-setting Development Committee yesterday.

The White House has said Mr. Bush has confidence in Mr. Wolfowitz.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said the United States welcomed and supported an updated version of the bank’s anti-corruption strategy developed under Mr. Wolfowitz’s leadership. Since taking over, Mr. Wolfowitz has made anti-corruption efforts a priority, prompting concern from some of the board’s European members that he was overemphasizing the issue.

Mr. Paulson called Mr. Wolfowitz “a very dedicated public servant” and said the review process by the board should be allowed to proceed.

As Mr. Wolfowitz entered the meeting room, he received a pat on the back from Rodrigo de Rato, the head of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank’s sister institution. Mr. Wolfowitz put down his briefing papers and, smiling, greeted members of the committee, headed by Mexico’s Agustin Carstens.

The United States, Britain and France, whose governments have a major role in bank operations, said it was important to await the outcome of the board investigation into Mr. Wolfowitz’s actions.

Some African officials attending the meetings expressed support for Mr. Wolfowitz, saying he has made the continent a greater priority at the bank.

“We have seen visionary leadership, steadfast progress under Mr. Wolfowitz,” said Liberia’s finance minister, Antoinette Sayeh. “We can only say that we look forward to that continuing.”

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