Wolfowitz at World Bank: A Bumpy Ride? ; Bush's Nomination Is Seen as Complicating Efforts to Smooth out Relations with Other Nations

Article excerpt

President Bush Wednesday nominated Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a principal architect of the Iraq war and a chief target of US foreign-policy critics, to head the World Bank.

Announcing the nomination at a White House press conference, Mr. Bush indicated that he knew it would be controversial when he said he hoped people would "get to know Paul better before a vote is taken." Bush called Mr. Wolfowitz a "skilled diplomat" who as a former ambassador to Indonesia - the world's largest Muslim country - showed his "compassion" and "commitment to development."

By tradition the US names the head of the World Bank, an international institution based in Washington that focuses on development in poorer countries. The nomination must be approved by other bank members. And although Bush said he was "pleased" that "world leaders" he contacted by phone had listened to his reasoning for the nomination, most observers expect a bumpy ratification process.

The nomination follows last week's naming of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations, another nomination seen by many as going against the grain of Bush administration efforts to smooth relations with the rest of the world after the Iraq war.

Calling the Wolfowitz nomination "a slap in the face" to Europe and a cold shower on the good feelings left by Bush's recent trip to Europe, one European diplomat said, "These two nominations portend a not very good time ahead."

Adding that European countries the diplomat knew of "did everything we could to prevent" the Wolfowitz nomination, the diplomat says, "the lack of consultation and willingness to listen that this suggests does not support what we understood was to be a new style."

Wolfowitz would replace outgoing World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who issued a statement Wednesday supporting the nomination, although earlier this month he had doused speculation about a Wolfowitz nomination. Pentagon officials had suggested that Wolfowitz wanted to stay at the Defense Department.

The US has said it hopes to see a new president in place before Wolfensohn departs in June, after 10 years in the job. But the European diplomat suggests a vote by the bank's broad of governors could still prove nettlesome.

Wolfowitz has come under particular criticism from Democrats, who have scorned his predictions that the Iraq war would cost little and that US troops on the ground would be quickly replaced by Iraqi forces. Wednesday House minority leader Nancy Pelosi quipped: "Maybe this is the president's way of removing [Wolfowitz] from the Defense Department."

Still, others see different motivations in Bush's nomination. For one thing, it follows in the logic of the Bolton nomination, some say, in that Wolfowitz is seen by administration supporters as not a gratuitous critic of international organizations, but one who wants them to work more effectively at their goals.

Others note that Wolfowitz going to the World Bank after the Iraq War would follow the example of former Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara, who headed the global institution after the Vietnam War. …


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