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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March 2005, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Wolfowitz wins European backing
Paul Wolfowitz has been a controversial choice
Paul Wolfowitz looks set to be confirmed as the new head of the World Bank in Washington on Thursday, after winning Europe's backing.

The US deputy defence secretary's nomination stirred controversy, given his key role in the Iraq war and lack of development experience.

But after a meeting on Wednesday in Brussels, European leaders said they expected approval of his nomination.

Europe is hoping to secure one of the two vacant vice-presidential posts.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker repeatedly referred to Mr Wolfowitz as "the incoming president of the World Bank" after the meeting he had arranged to address concerns.

'Unifying mission'

The US traditionally nominates the head of the World Bank, while Europe controls the top job at the International Monetary Fund.

But the proposal of Mr Wolfowitz by the White House was seen in some quarters as an attempt to bend a multilateral body to US demands.

It came soon after questions were raised by the nomination of veteran unilateralist John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN.

After Wednesday's talks, Mr Wolfowitz seemed at pains to reassure doubters that the Bank's development agenda would remain paramount under his management.

There's some impressive people in the developing world, and I'm going to need all the help I can get
Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank presidential nominee

"I understand that I'm to put it mildly a controversial figure," he said.

"But I hope as people get to know me that they will understand that I really do believe deeply in the mission of the Bank.

"It's a... unifying mission, and frankly that's going to be fun."

He promised to seek a "truly multinational" management team - but would not give Europe an unequivocal promise on the deputy's post.

The top team "needs to reflect the fact that the European countries as a group are the largest single donors to the Bank", he said.

"But it also needs to reflect the full diversity of donors and recipients," he added.

"There's some impressive people in the developing world, and I'm going to need all the help I can get."

Unnamed Bank staff and a range of non-governmental organisations were among those criticising the nomination of Mr Wolfowitz.

Both groups were mentioned by Mr Wolfowitz, who described his future staff as "an extraordinary group of international professionals" and promised to continue "reaching out and paying attention to the views of non-governmental organisations".


Other high-profile international roles are set to be filled in the coming months, and European candidates are among the frontrunners.

We have to make sure that Europeans will be represented in a better way on the managing board of the Bank
Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg prime minister

Observers say that, with that in mind, European leaders are proving unwilling to move away from current efforts to rebuild transatlantic relationships following disagreements over Iraq.

But they add that the disquiet in Europe has been tangible amid fears that the United Nations' push to halve world poverty by 2015 - to which the Bank is committed, but which is already well behind schedule - could be further sidelined.

The concern prompted Luxembourg, the current holder of the European Union's presidency, to organise the meeting 24 hours ahead of the Bank board's vote.

"We have to make sure that the Millennium Development Goals are the basis on which the incoming president of the World Bank organises his work," said Mr Juncker, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, ahead of the talks.

"We have to make sure that Europeans will be represented in a better way on the managing board of the Bank."

Paul Wolfowitz explains why he is eager to take on the job

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