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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 06:42 GMT
Dismay at Wolfowitz's nomination
Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz has served as US ambassador to Indonesia
There has been a cool response to President Bush's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to be the next head of the World Bank, a key development agency.

Mr Wolfowitz, 61, currently US Deputy Defence Secretary, has a reputation as a "neo-conservative" hawk and was a key architect of the Iraq war.

News of his candidacy brought criticism from aid agencies and faint praise from several European government ministers.

Mr Bush described Mr Wolfowitz as a "compassionate, decent man".

French and German ministers were guarded in their reaction, while Sweden's foreign minister said she was sceptical about the nomination.

I really believe in the mission of the bank, which is reducing poverty. It is a noble mission and a matter of enlightened self-interest
Paul Wolfowitz

"The enthusiasm in old Europe is not exactly overwhelming," said German Aid and Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.

French President Jacques Chirac "took note" of the nomination, a spokesman said.

But UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw backed Mr Wolfowitz, calling him "very distinguished and experienced internationally".

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also stood by the nomination, his spokesman said.

Global consultations

In an apparent sign that President Bush was alert to the sensitivity of the nomination, White House officials revealed that he personally telephoned a string of world leaders to discuss Mr Wolfowitz's candidacy.

In addition to Mr Chirac and Mr Koizumi, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and South African President Thabo Mbeki all received calls, the Associated Press reports.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
1989-93: Under-secretary for defence policy
1986-89: US ambassador to Indonesia
1983-86: Assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs
1981-82: Head of state department policy planning staff
2001 onwards: Deputy defence secretary

Some World Bank staff and some member governments fear that Mr Wolfowitz - an advocate of the muscular spread of democracy - would use his position to change its focus from development aid to a wider political mission, the BBC's Justin Webb reports from Washington.

The organisation, which has 184 members and is traditionally headed by an American, is responsible for leading global efforts to promote economic development and reduce poverty.

Aid agencies and development experts lined up to criticise the nomination.

A British-based campaign group, the World Development Movement, described the nomination as a "truly terrifying appointment".

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner and a former World Bank chief economist, said: "Choosing the right general in the war against poverty will not assure victory, but choosing the wrong one surely increases the chances of failure."

Greenpeace, ActionAid, and Oxfam were among other critics.

But World Bank critic Allan Meltzer, who chaired a US congressional committee on the bank in 2000, said Mr Wolfowitz was well qualified for the job.

"We don't need a development person, there are plenty of people at the bank who do that," Mr Meltzer told the BBC News website.

"What the bank needs is focus: how many children are inoculated against measles every year? What have we done to bring water to the villages?"

Second hardliner

Current World Bank president James Wolfensohn will leave in June after 10 years, despite seeking re-appointment.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The 'Wolf' has been shown the path to the henhouse. It's hard to imagine peaceful development under his leadership.

Kelly, Washington, US

It is the second time within weeks that Mr Bush has appointed a hardliner to a key international post.

Earlier in March, he nominated Under-Secretary of State John Bolton to be US ambassador to the United Nations - a body Mr Bolton has repeatedly derided.

Mr Wolfowitz must be formally approved by the World Bank's executive board.

US appointments to the World Bank presidency are usually unchallenged, as are European nominations to lead the International Monetary Fund.

The view in Washington is that the White House would not have announced the president's choice unless sufficient support had already been garnered behind the scenes, our correspondent says.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why Paul Wolfowitz gets President Bush's backing



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