Thursday, April 19, 2007

Top deputy tells Wolfowitz to quit

Updated: 2007-04-19 10:14

WASHINGTON - A deputy to Paul Wolfowitz urged the World Bank chief on Wednesday to resign in the interests of the institution during a meeting of the bank's management, sources who participated in the meeting said.

The sources told Reuters that World Bank Managing Director Graeme Wheeler, a bank veteran named by Wolfowitz as one of his two deputies a year ago, raised the issue at a meeting of the bank's vice presidents.

Asked to comment, World Bank spokesman Marwan Muasher said: "I feel it is inappropriate to comment on private meetings."

Wheeler, a former World Bank treasurer who joined the bank from the New Zealand treasury, is widely respected in the institution.

He was one of the first career staffers Wolfowitz brought into his management team after he took the helm of the bank in 2005 and came under fire for surrounding himself with people he brought with him from the Pentagon and White House.

Wheeler could not be reached for comment.

The World Bank is reeling from a controversy over leaked documents that show Wolfowitz played a role in dictating the terms of a high-paying promotion for his companion and bank employee Shaha Riza, before she was moved by the bank in 2005 to the State Department because of their relationship.

Wolfowitz has said he does not intend to resign and has apologized for his handling of the matter, even as World Bank member governments worry that the matter had damaged the credibility of the poverty-fighting institution and dented staff morale.

The White House on Wednesday repeated that President George W. Bush still had "full confidence" in Wolfowitz, a key Iraq war architect who left the Pentagon in 2005 to become World Bank president.

"We still have full confidence, the president has full confidence in President Wolfowitz," White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters.

The bank's 24-nation board is examining Wolfowitz's role in helping to arrange the promotion for Riza, while the organization representing bank employees has called for his resignation.

"I think the effort of the World Bank board should be to get to the facts, treat it with fairness and think of the long-term effectiveness of the institution," Fratto said.

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