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Last Updated: Friday, 1 April, 2005, 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK
Wolfowitz sets Africa poverty aim
World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz seems to have won over some of the doubters
Paul Wolfowitz, the new head of the World Bank, has said his main goal will be to achieve "real success" in cutting poverty, particularly in Africa.

Mr Wolfowitz was confirmed as the new head of the World Bank on Thursday after winning crucial European support.

He told the BBC that poverty reduction would be the "primary mission" of the Bank under his leadership.

His nomination had proved controversial given his role in the Iraq war and lack of development experience.

Deep belief

The US deputy defence secretary said he wanted his legacy to be "real success in reducing poverty especially in Africa, the continent which most desperately needs it".

Poverty reduction is a unifying goal and one that I believe in deeply
Paul Wolfowitz, US Deputy Defence Secretary

"I am very prepared to listen and prepared to be an international civil servant," he said.

Mr Wolfowitz, 61, who will take over at the World Bank from 1 June, denied that he would use his position to push broader US foreign policy objectives such as spreading democracy and free markets.

"The fact is that when it comes to poverty reduction, it is not a question of American foreign policy, or British foreign policy or South African foreign policy. It [poverty reduction] is a unifying goal and it is one that I believe in deeply."

"Each organisation has to focus on its primary mission and its core competencies and the World Bank's are in the areas of poverty reduction."

Reassurance

Despite early opposition to his nomination, the directors of the Bank, representing 184 countries, unanimously approved Mr Wolfowitz as the organisation's 10th president on Thursday.

Since being nominated, Mr Wolfowitz has moved to reassure his detractors that the World Bank would continue its humanitarian efforts.

Immediately after his nomination was approved, Mr Wolfowitz said he would focus on key subjects such as international trade, subsidies and private sector investment.

He also said that he had a "new appreciation" for the urgent need for debt relief and integrating regional economies.

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.

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.

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




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Paul Wolfowitz explains why he is eager to take on the job



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