Washington: Leading governments of Europe, mounting a new campaign to push Paul D. Wolfowitz from his job as World Bank president, signaled on 7 May that they were willing to let the US choose the bank's next chief, but only if Wolfowitz stepped down soon, European officials said.
European officials had previously indicated that they wanted to end the tradition of the US picking the World Bank leader. But now the officials are hoping to enlist American help in persuading Wolfowitz to resign voluntarily, rather than be rebuked or ousted.
The goal, they said, is to avert a public rupture of the bank board over a vote, possibly later this week, to sanction Wolfowitz. Even if the vote is a reprimand, they said, it could effectively make it impossible for him to stay on.
The Europeans worked to arrange a quick exit for Wolfowitz as a special bank committee concluded that he was guilty of breaking rules barring conflicts of interest in arranging for a pay raise and promotion for Shaha Ali Riza, his companion and a bank employee, in 2005.
The decision was sent to Wolfowitz on Sunday night after a month of turmoil over the situation. The panel's findings were not made public, but people familiar with the report said that it reviewed documents and testimony before concluding that Wolfowitz had breached his obligations in arranging for Riza's reassignment from the bank to the State Department.
"What I'm hearing from colleagues is, 'Let's not push the Americans too hard,"' said a senior European official involved in policy on the bank. "We want to avoid a split between the United States and its European allies. We're willing to say: 'OK, you find a capable American to run this institution and we can live with that."'
In another sign of Wolfowitz's difficulties, his top communications aide, Kevin Kellems, resigned on Monday, saying that "the current environment surrounding the leadership" at the bank made it "very difficult to be effective in helping to advance the mission of the institution."
European officials did not disclose details of how they were communicating with the Bush administration, but they said the suggestion that Wolfowitz resign in return for having an American successor was first raised with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. in mid-April.