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Since 1st March, 1999
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Europe buries Wolfowitz misgivings

Brussels, March 23 (Reuters): Europe buried misgivings over Washington's nomination of Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank today, making clear that it would not stand in his way.

EU leaders pressed, nevertheless, for a meeting with the US deputy defence secretary before the end of March to hear his views on the multinational development bank's role.

'The realpolitik of the situation is that in all likelihood Wolfowitz will be appointed as chairman of the bank,' Irish finance minister Brian Cowen said after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

Wolfowitz's nomination to succeed James Wolfensohn as World Bank president shocked many Europeans, who know him best as an advocate of using US military power to invade Iraq.

More than 1,300 European aid organisations have put their names to a statement of concern about Wolfowitz's nomination, saying his appointment risked turning the bank into a 'tool of the current controversial US foreign policy'.

No European government spoke out openly against the choice but diplomats say many were uneasy, especially after the appointment of another hawk, former under secretary of state John Bolton, as US ambassador to the United Nations.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, one of Europe's fiercest opponents of the invasion of Iraq, said he had spoken to President George W. Bush on the matter some time ago.

'I told him that I believed Europe's enthusiasm would be limited but that the appointment would not fail because of Germany,' Schroeder said. 'My impression is that is also the case for others in Europe.'

Others at the summit indicated there would be no objections to Wolfowitz's nomination, which comes at a time when Europe is seeking to heal rifts with the Bush administration and wants US backing for former EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy's bid to head the World Trade Organisation.

'We said he was a good candidate from the very beginning... it seems to me he is well-read, competent and likeable,' Italian economy minister Domenico Sinicalco said.

Polish foreign minister Adam Rotfeld, whose country is one of the US' closest European allies, described Wolfowitz as a 'very positive and clear-cut person' and said world public opinion would be pleasantly surprised.

The World Bank provides soft loans, policy advice and technical assistance to reduce poverty in developing countries.

The views of European nations on its president matter because, although the Washington-based institution works by consensus, together they have a 30-per cent voting share on its board. The US has the largest share with 17 per cent.

Traditionally, Washington names the head of the World Bank while Europe appoints the head of the International Monetary Fund, but both sides like to have a say on the posts.

A senior EU official said there may be a meeting with Wolfowitz next Tuesday, before he is approved.

'Hopefully, if he can before March 31 when he's due to be instated ... (EU) development ministers or others will have an opportunity to discuss with him in an informal way what he intends to do and how he intends to go about it,' Cowen said.

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