Few obstacles for Wolfowitz in WB campaign
WASHINGTON: Paul Wolfowitz’s nomination for World Bank president has aroused fewer public grumbles than expected in part because of European jostling for top jobs at other global agencies, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.
Pentagon No. 2 Wolfowitz is known worldwide as an architect of the US invasion of Iraq, a war many countries in Europe and elsewhere strongly opposed. Yet not a single European government has spoken out against his candidacy — which seems set to succeed.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder bowed to the inevitability of Wolfowitz’s winning the job, telling a news briefing in Brussels on Wednesday: “I told (US President George W. Bush) that I believed Europe’s enthusiasm would be limited but that the appointment would not fail because of Germany.”
Many European officials are fuming privately, diplomatic sources say. The sources said European angst has remained unexpressed in large part because many countries have candidates in the running for top international posts.
Britain, Norway and the Netherlands are vying for the helm of the UN Development Program, which has an annual budget of nearly $3 billion. Meanwhile, the European Union has nominated former EU trade chief Pascal Lamy of France for the top job at the World Trade Organization, which comes open in August.
These nominations all need US support. Still, EU leaders want to meet Wolfowitz and have asked him to travel to Europe before March 31, when the World Bank board meets to approve the nomination. The date and location for the meeting is still under discussion, US administration officials said.
Europeans on the bank’s board interviewed Wolfowitz in Washington on Wednesday. But Wolfowitz can expect public protests if he travels to Europe. More than 1,300 European aid groups have put their names to a petition about his candidacy.
Marches protesting the Iraq war took place in Europe and the United States over the weekend to mark the second anniversary of the US-led invasion.
Growing support: Asian leaders backed Wolfowitz last week, and developing countries on Wednesday said they were encouraged after meetings with him this week, saying Wolfowitz assured them he will not attempt to pursue a political agenda at the bank.
His comments are intended to allay fears that he would seek to push the Bush administration’s foreign policy agenda because of his close White House ties. “He is a good communicator and he gives the right answers,” said one board official. “He was humble and listened carefully to what we had to say,” another official said. Wolfowitz has stuck to a careful script in media interviews and meetings with bank board members, talking about his passion for development and deep interest in easing poverty.
He has expressed admiration for outgoing World Bank president James Wolfensohn and given no indication that he plans major changes to current bank policies. Outside the bank, reaction has been mixed. In a New York Times editorial, James Rubin, former assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, called him the right choice. —Reuters