| Boxed in
Washington/Berlin, May 16 (Reuters): Paul Wolfowitz made an emotional appeal to stay on as World Bank president, but Germany stepped up pressure on him to resign, saying he would not be welcome at a forum the bank is holding next week in Berlin.
Wolfowitz made the appeal in a last pitch before the bank’s board decides whether he has the credibility to lead the institution set up to help fight poverty.
The US government failed to rally support among its key allies for a strategy aimed at saving Wolfowitz his job, even as a bank panel found that he violated ethics rules in pushing through a promotion and pay rise for his bank-employee companion Shaha Riza.
“He would do the bank and himself a great service if he resigned,” German development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, one of Wolfowitz’s strongest critics, said. “It would be the best thing for all concerned.”
Should he fail to give up his post, she advised him not to take part in a two-day World Bank forum on development aid for Africa which starts Monday in the German capital. “I would not advise him to (take part) if he’s still in office,” she said, referring to Wolfowitz.
Wolfowitz remained defiant yesterday as he appeared before the 24-nation World Bank board, which will resume a meeting later to decide his fate.
“I respectfully submit, to criticise my actions or to find them as a basis for a loss of confidence would be grossly unfair and would be contrary to the evidence we have presented to you,” Wolfowitz said in a statement to the board.
“Rather than fix blame for something that wasn’t wrong, we should all acknowledge our responsibility as I have acknowledged mine,” he said, conceding he made mistakes.
Wolfowitz has been a controversial figure at the World Bank since his nomination by President George W. Bush in 2005 and has fought misgivings by European member countries over his role in the Iraq war while US deputy defense secretary.
As he faced some of those critics on the board, where Europeans have voiced concern over his continued leadership, Wolfowitz called for a resolution that would be fair.
He also promised he would change his management style to regain the trust of staff who have voiced concern that the leadership crisis had compromised the bank’s credibility and its effectiveness in fighting global poverty.
“I implore each of you to be fair in making your decision, because your decision will not only affect my life, it will affect how this institution is viewed in the US and the world,” Wolfowitz told the board. “You still have the opportunity to avoid long-term damage by resolving this matter in a fair and equitable way that recognises that we all tried to do the right thing, however imperfectly we went about it.”
The US government has failed to rally support among its key allies for a strategy aimed at saving Wolfowitz his job.
The Bush administration found support only from Japan in a conference call of officials from Group of Seven industrial nations. A G7 source said it was clear that most participants on the call wanted a quick resolution to a protracted and messy battle over whether Wolfowitz should stay on.