Wolfowitz's World Bank bid endorsed

Handpicked by US President George President, Paul Wolfowitz's candidacy to head the World Bank seems set for approval at the end of the month.

    President Bush has nominated Wolfowitz (L) for the job

    Germany and Canada on Monday endorsed the nomination of the US deputy defence secretary for the World Bank top job. Other members of the bank are expected to follow suit.

    "The US president phoned me up to say what he intended and I told him Germany would not stand in his way," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told German television.

    "I have the impression we could be positively surprised."
       
    In Ottawa, a finance department spokesman said Canada welcomed Wolfowitz's nomination, describing him as "a very serious and credible candidate".
       
    European diplomats said there was a feeling that shareholders wanted to "avoid a crisis and a period of uncertainty at the World Bank".

    Controversial choice

    One of the main architects of the war in Iraq, Wolfowitz's nomination had initially triggered global apprehensions.

    "The US president phoned me up to say what he intended and I told him Germany would not stand in his way"

    Gerhard Schroeder
    German  chancellor

    The European Union is holding a summit in Brussels on Tuesday, which will discuss Wolfowitz's nomination to become president of the bank.
       
    France, which like Germany strongly opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, was also expected to back Washington's candidate for the job, European bank sources and diplomats said.

    Wolfowitz was preparing to meet World Bank members this week, including those from Europe and Africa, to discuss his vision for the bank, which provides about $20 billion a year in aid to the world's poorest nations.
       
    As president of the 184-member bank, Wolfowitz will have to report to the bank's 24-member board, which will vote on his nomination on 31 March.
       
    Foreign governments and non-profit advocates of poverty reduction fear that Wolfowitz will impose US foreign policy on the bank, which wants to be seen as neutral.

    Past links with President Suharto
    have come to haunt Wolfowitz

    Indonesian criticism

    And rights activists in Indonesia, where Wolfowitz served as ambassador between 1986 to 1989, have also criticised his nomination, saying he had a poor track record in areas crucial to the World Bank, such as fighting corruption and respect for human rights.

    Activists say Wolfowitz never criticised the excesses of the then government of President Suharto.

    "Of all former US ambassadors, he was considered closest to and most influential with Suharto and his family," said Abd al-Hakim Garuda Nusantara, head of the state-sponsored National Human Rights Commission.

    "But he never showed interest in issues regarding democratisation or respect of human rights," said Abd al-Hakim, who at the time headed the Legal Aid Institute that defended dissidents and sought to free political prisoners.

    "I also never heard him publicly mention corruption, not once," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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