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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March 2005, 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK
Wolfowitz confirmed at World Bank
World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz seems to have won over some of the doubters
Paul Wolfowitz has been confirmed as the new head of the World Bank a day after winning crucial European support.

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

Despite the early opposition, the directors of the Bank, representing 184 countries, unanimously approved him as the organisation's 10th president.

Mr Wolfowitz, 61, will take over at the World Bank from 1 June.

Deeper understanding

After the vote, Mr Wolfowitz wasted no time in trying to reassure his detractors that the World Bank would continue its humanitarian efforts.

I understand that I'm - to put it mildly - a controversial figure
Paul Wolfowitz, US Deputy Defence Secretary

"It is humbling to be entrusted with the leadership of this critically important international institution," Mr Wolfowitz said in a statement.

"Helping the poorest of the world to lift themselves out of poverty is a noble mission or, as former Secretary of State George Shultz said, 'a beautiful mission'."

"I believe deeply in that mission."

Mr Wolfowitz added that "the next six months are a key period of decision-making on international development policy", and referred to recent meetings with global policy makers.

"I look forward now to deepening my understanding of the challenges facing the Bank."


Mr Wolfowitz said he had a "new appreciation for the urgent need for debt relief", as well as "infrastructure and regional integration".

He also highlighted the topics of international trade policies and subsidies, and private sector investment "as key factors influencing prospects for the poor".

Concern about Mr Wolfowitz's agenda had prompted Luxembourg, the current holder of the European Union presidency, to organise a meeting in Brussels 24 hours ahead of the Bank board's vote.

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

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

Multinational team

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.

"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."

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

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

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