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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Europe ups pressure on Wolfowitz
World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz is mired in a scandal regarding payments to his girlfriend
Pressure is mounting in Europe for World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz to quit amid a heated favouritism row.

A senior German minister reiterated calls for Mr Wolfowitz to resign, while France demanded an urgent meeting of the Bank's board of directors.

However, the US said it still backed Mr Wolfowitz, and dismissed suggestions that US support for him was cooling.

"We support him fully," a White House spokesman said. "This is not hanging Paul Wolfowitz out to dry."

A World Bank review panel recently found that Mr Wolfowitz, a former second-in-command at the US Pentagon, had breached the Bank's rules following his handling of a promotion and pay rise for his girlfriend - and World Bank colleague - Shaha Riza.

The special panel had been looking into whether Mr Wolfowitz abused his powers over the authorisation of Ms Riza's promotion and pay increase in 2005.

Mr Wolfowitz has apologised for "mistakes" made over the promotion and pay issue, but has insisted he should remain in his job.

'Voluntary resignation'

A spokeswoman for German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said there remained deep concerns that the scandal surrounding Mr Wolfowitz was damaging the World Bank.

The minister had made it clear that Mr Wolfowitz's "voluntary resignation was the best solution for the Bank and its goals", the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, a French foreign ministry spokesman said the World Bank's key decision-making committee should meet as soon as possible to discuss the review panel's findings.

"We would want the board of directors to meet swiftly to decide based on this report and on statements from Mr Wolfowitz," he said.

The European calls follow a decision on Monday by one of Mr Wolfowitz's closest aides at the World Bank to step down.

Kevin Kellems said the dispute surrounding his boss had made it difficult for him to remain effective in his role at the Washington-based institution.

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