- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007


The World Bank’s board met privately yesterday to discuss President Paul Wolfowitz, whose leadership has been thrown into turmoil by revelations that he helped his girlfriend get a high-paying job.

It was not clear what action, if any, the 24-member board would take in the matter. Many of the bank’s employees, aid groups and some Democratic politicians want Mr. Wolfowitz to resign.

His nearly two-year tenure at the institution, which fights global poverty, has been pockmarked by trouble. The current situation — that he arranged a promotion and generous compensation for Shaha Riza, a bank employee whom he has dated — is calling into question his leadership and has put his job in jeopardy.

The United States — the bank’s largest shareholder — is standing by Mr. Wolfowitz.

“As we’ve said before, the president has confidence in Paul Wolfowitz,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said yesterday in a fresh statement of support. She also said it is appropriate to let the board’s review process take place.

Although they have not said so publicly, some European governments would like to see Mr. Wolfowitz go but do not want to provoke a fight with the United States.

Under an informal agreement, the United States names the head of the 185-nation World Bank and the Europeans choose the leader of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund. The issue over Mr. Wolfowitz could bring this informal arrangement into question.

Hoping to defuse tensions, Mr. Wolfowitz — during a meeting of bank presidents on Wednesday — offered to make management changes at the institution, officials close to the situation said yesterday.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Mr. Wolfowitz stated anew that he did not intend to step down, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They said Mr. Wolfowitz spoke in general terms for the need to improve the bank’s management, including that of his inner office, and to soften his management style. He also invited recommendations.

Documents released last week showed that Mr. Wolfowitz had a direct hand in securing a State Department job for Ms. Riza in September 2005 that pays her $193,590. Before the transfer, Ms. Riza was earning close to $133,000 as a communications adviser in the bank’s Middle East department.

Ms. Riza remains on the World Bank’s payroll even though she left the State Department job last year and now works for Foundation for the Future, an international organization that gets some money from the department. “I have now been victimized” for agreeing to the arrangement, she said in a memo.

The bank’s staff association, which accounts for about 7,000 of the bank’s 10,000 employees worldwide, wants Mr. Wolfowitz to resign, saying his actions have tarnished the reputation of the bank. “His conduct to date does not reflect respect for good governance,” said Alison Cave, head of the staff association.

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