WASHINGTON (AFP) -US President George W. Bush was on Wednesday set to name former diplomat and trade chief Robert Zoellick to head the World Bank after a favoritism scandal that forced Paul Wolfowitz to resign.
By nominating Zoellick, a troubleshooter on tricky issues ranging from global trade to strife in Darfur, Bush is seeking to finally put behind the furore that rocked the World Bank for weeks.
The World Bank’s 24-member board of governors must approve the nomination. Wolfowitz has agreed to step down on June 30 to end a scandal over a generous pay-and-promotion package he arranged for his girlfriend, a bank employee.
But the choice of Zoellick could raise eyebrows among European countries that were disappointed by Bush’s nomination in 2005 of Wolfowitz, a former deputy defense secretary and Iraq war architect. Zoellick also backed military action to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein
A senior Bush administration official said the choice of Zoellick was received favorably by countries consulted by US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who led the search for Wolfowitz’s replacement.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to name the countries.
“Bob Zoellick’s experience and long career in international trade, finance and diplomacy make him uniquely prepared to take on this challenge,” said the official.
“He has the trust and respect of many officials around the world and believes deeply in the World Bank’s mission of tackling poverty.”
“We’ve received positive reaction — and we think sufficient — for him to become the World Bank president,” the official said. “We are very confident on that.”
After Zoellick’s upcoming nomination was revealed by the Bush administration Tuesday, the World Bank’s board issued a statement outlining the “essential” qualities for the organization’s next president.
The board said the next bank chief should have “a proven track record of leadership,” “experience managing large, international organizations,” “a firm commitment to development,” “a commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation, and political objectivity and independence.”
Zoellick, 53, left the State Department’s number-two post in June 2006 to join Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs after making his mark on world international trade and sensitive relations with China.
He became Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s deputy in February 2005, after serving four years as the US Trade Representative.
As deputy secretary of state, one of his primary concerns was the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Zoellick traveled numerous times to Sudan to nail down a peace accord between the government and the main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army.
Before moving to the State Department, Zoellick played a key role in talks that brought China and Taiwan into the World Trade Organization, and helped forge free-trade agreements with Singapore, Chile, Australia and Morocco.
He also was a driving force behind trade negotiations with five nations of Central America and the Dominican Republic, as well as Bahrain, Jordan, Vietnam and numerous other countries. And he launched trade talks with the Southern African Customs Union, Panama, the Andean countries and Thailand.
By tradition, the United States, as the biggest contributor, names the head of the multilateral bank. European countries select the head of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.
Despite pressure from Brazil and other developing countries to open the candidacy to any nationality, Bush has insisted the next president would be American.