- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A deputy to Paul Wolfowitz told the World Bank president yesterday to resign in the interests of the institution during a meeting of the bank’s management, sources who participated in the meeting said.

The sources told Reuters that World Bank Managing Director Graeme Wheeler, a bank veteran who was appointed by Mr. Wolfowitz as one of his two deputies a year ago, raised the issue at a meeting of the bank’s vice presidents.

Asked to comment, World Bank spokesman Marwan Muasher said: “I feel it is inappropriate to comment on private meetings.”

Mr. Wheeler could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said yesterday it is reviewing a 2003 contract that went to a World Bank employee and companion to Mr. Wolfowitz, then the No. 2 official at the Defense Department.

Spokesman Bryan Whitman said the department is “having to go back and look at the paper trail” because some people who were with the department at the time have left. He stopped short of calling it an investigation.

Mr. Whitman’s comments come after Science Applications International Corp., a large defense contractor, said it was directed to hire Shaha Riza, who at the time worked as a communications adviser in the bank’s Middle East Department.

Mr. Wolfowitz is fighting to keep his World Bank job after disclosing that he was directly involved in arranging a promotion and raises for Ms. Riza after he came to the development agency.

Under the Pentagon contract, which ran from April 25 to May 31, 2003, Ms. Riza spent a month studying ways to help set up a new government in Iraq. Ms. Riza was paid expenses but no salary while in Iraq, an SAIC spokesman said Tuesday.

At the time of the contract, Mr. Wolfowitz was deputy defense secretary and played a key role in mapping out the Iraq war.

He left the Pentagon in 2005 to become president of the World Bank. Mr. Wolfowitz had a direct hand in transferring Ms. Riza to a high-paying job at the State Department in 2005, shortly after he took the helm, according to documents released last week.

The flap has provoked cries of favoritism and outrage from many World Bank employees, who want Mr. Wolfowitz to resign. Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and various aid groups are among those calling for Mr. Wolfowitz to step down. Critics say he has tarnished the bank’s reputation.

However, the United States the bank’s largest shareholder offered fresh support for the embattled chief yesterday.

“The president has full confidence in President Wolfowitz,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. “We’d like to see him remain.”

Asked if the bank’s image is hurt by the Wolfowitz controversy, Mr. Fratto responded: “It’s not what we believe.”

Ms. Riza remains on the World Bank’s payroll though she left the State Department job in 2006 and now works for Foundation for the Future, an international organization that gets some money from the department.

The World Bank’s board is looking into the matter and will decide what, if any, action should be taken. The board has a regularly scheduled meeting today, where the Wolfowitz issue could be discussed in a closed-door session.

“There is a process under way. We have confidence that that process will reach the appropriate decision,” said John Lipsky, first deputy managing director at the International Monetary Fund.

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