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Wolfowitz to plead his case in crucial World Bank meeting

Wolfowitz to plead his case in crucial World Bank meeting

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz heads into a crunch meeting with restive bank directors on Monday, accused of peddling personal influence for his girlfriend and pursuing right-wing U.S. policy goals.
At the meeting with a World Bank investigatory committee, the former Pentagon number two will plead his case over revelations that he ordered a huge pay package for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza.
The committee, drawn from the full board of 24 national representatives, is examining not just the Riza affair but his hiring of former White House aides to influential, and highly paid, jobs in his inner circle.
A report in The Washington Post Saturday said the bank panel had already concluded that Wolfowitz breached ethics in engineering the pay raise for Riza, but remained locked in debate over whether to call explicitly for his resignation.
Wolfowitz is set to appear at Monday's meeting with Riza and Robert Bennett, a prominent Washington lawyer who helped former president Bill Clinton settle a sexual harassment case in 1998.
"We want to make a presentation to them to show that this conflict-of-interest allegation is absolutely false," Bennett told AFP, arguing that Wolfowitz was being "smeared" by opponents.
"They have some policy disputes with him and there are some international power issues," added the lawyer, referring to long-standing European suspicion of Wolfowitz.
The bank's hearing will coincide with a Washington summit between U.S. President George W. Bush and the European Union, represented by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose members believe Wolfowitz is now a liability.
But propped up by declarations of "full confidence" from Bush, the neoconservative who played a starring role in the drive for war in Iraq shows no sign of caving in.
Meanwhile, a close aide is accused of agitating to dilute World Bank support for abortions in the developing world, while a leaked document suggests that Wolfowitz's office intervened to water down a paper on climate change.
"This (climate) revision is yet another example of Mr. Wolfowitz's attempt to align bank policy with the ideological positions of the Bush administration," said Bea Edwards of the Government Accountability Project, which published the leaked memo.
Wolfowitz says he acted in good faith, on the advice of the bank's ethics committee, in trying to resolve a potential conflict of interest between himself and Riza after he became president in June 2005.
But officials contend that he was never directed to personally order guaranteed promotions and a pay deal worth nearly 200,000 dollars for his Libyan-born companion when she was reassigned to a U.S. government job.
Critics say the credibility of the World Bank itself is being shredded, not least over a campaign spearheaded by Wolfowitz to root out corruption.
Pressure intensified last week with an open letter from 46 senior staff involved in implementing his "Governance and Anticorruption" (GAC) strategy on the ground.
In places like Indonesia and Africa, local officials are mocking demands from World Bank staff to attack graft given the current scandal, according to reports.
"In these circumstances, we cannot credibly implement the GAC strategy," the staff members wrote in their letter.
Without calling outright for the president to leave office, they appealed for "clear and decisive actions to resolve this crisis quickly."
"If the bank's own governance experts are asking for immediate action, what hope does Wolfowitz have of restoring trust in himself or legitimacy in the World Bank?" commented Manish Bapna, executive director of the independent Bank Information Center.


Updated : 2020-12-02 12:24 GMT+08:00