WASHINGTON – World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said Sunday that he intends to continue in his job despite his role in arranging pay raises and promotions for his girlfriend, a bank employee forced by conflict-of-interest rules to take an outside job during his tenure.
“Look, I believe in the mission of this organization, and I believe I can carry it out,” Wolfowitz said at a news conference called to discuss a meeting of the bank’s development committee. “I have had many expressions of support. … We need to work our way through this. The board is looking into the matter, and we’ll let them complete their work.”
The bank, he said, “has important work to do, and I will continue to do it.”
The furor over Wolfowitz appeared to overshadow the agenda of the World Bank’s annual spring meeting of finance and development ministers over the weekend.
“The current situation is of great concern to us,” saidAgustin Carstens, the Development Committee chairman and Mexican finance minister, reading a committee statement as Wolfowitz sat beside him on a dais. “We endorse the board’s actions in looking into this matter and ask it to complete its work. We expect the bank to adhere to the high standards of international governance.”
Reporters asked Wolfowitz to “explain the sort of circumstances in which you would feel obliged to resign” and whether it would be better “for the good of the bank and better for you … to just leave?”
Wolfowitz did not respond, repeating that he would not impede “the board’s deliberations.” The board suspended its consideration of the issue during the annual meeting.
A number of ministers from developing countries, particularly in Africa, have praised Wolfowitz’s presidency. His defenders have charged that he is being vilified because he, as deputy defense secretary in President Bush’s first term, was an architect of the unpopular Iraq war.
But representatives from major donor nations, particularly in Europe, have long been dissatisfied with his leadership and clashed with him over a range of issues. The bank’s staff association has criticized his management and last week called for his resignation.