Washington: US President George W. Bush nominated former diplomat and trade chief Robert Zoellick on Wednesday to head the World Bank after a favouritism scandal forced out Paul Wolfowitz.
“I am pleased to announce that I will nominate Bob Zoellick to be the 11th president of the World Bank,” Bush said in a formal announcement at the White House.
“Bob Zoellick has had a long and distinguished career in diplomacy and development economics. It has prepared him well for this new assignment. He is a committed internationalist. He has earned the trust and support of leaders from every region of the world,” said the president.
The US president cited a long list of Zoellick’s accomplishments, including his willingness “to help struggling nations defeat poverty to grow their economies and offer their people the hope of a better life”.
By nominating Zoellick, 53, a Goldman Sachs vice chairman known as a consensus-builder on issues ranging from global trade to strife in Darfur, Bush sought to put an end to the scandal that rocked the World Bank for more than six weeks.
Zoellick’s nomination must be approved by the World Bank board of executive directors, representing the poverty-fighting lender’s 185 member countries. Late Tuesday the board issued a statement recalling that nominations may be made by any of its 24 members.
Traditionally the US, as the biggest contributor, names the head of the multilateral bank. European countries select the head of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.
Zoellick once before was the US choice to head the World Bank, in early 2005. However, he was called by Bush to serve as the deputy secretary of state and it was Wolfowitz, a former deputy defense secretary, who was selected.
He became Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s deputy in February 2005, after serving four years as the US Trade Representative.
Zoellick left the State Department in June 2006 to join Goldman Sachs.
If confirmed by the bank’s board, Zoellick faces the task of restoring trust at the World Bank after the favoritism scandal sparked by Wolfowitz’s generous pay-and-promotions package for his companion, Shaha Riza, a bank employee.
Wolfowitz announced on May 17 he is resigning on June 30 to end the uproar. He already had been sharply criticized during his two-year tenure for his anti-corruption agenda and an insular management style that relied on a coterie of Bush allies.
Zoellick’s nomination may raise eyebrows among European countries that were disappointed by Bush’s backing in 2005 of Wolfowitz, a former deputy defense secretary and Iraq war architect.
But while Zoellick also backed military action to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, initial reactions to his candidacy, signaled late Tuesday by a senior administration official, have been enthusiastic.
World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy welcomed the likely nomination of a man he knew from the other side of the negotiating table at the 2001 launch of the Doha Round of international trade negotiations, when Lamy was the European Union trade commissioner and Zoellick his US counterpart.
“I’ve always appreciated his talent as a craftsman of consensus and his ability to extend a hand to developing countries,” Lamy told AFP.
France, which spearheaded international opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, also welcomed Bush’s candidate.
“Mr. Zoellick is certainly the right man for the job,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Wednesday.
Kouchner added, however, that Zoellick would have to regain the trust of the international community following the Wolfowitz scandal.
“He has to establish or rather reestablish confidence in the institution because it was a dark chapter with Wolfowitz,” he told reporters before a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Germany.