Bush taps ex-trade negotiator Zoellick for World Bank


Washington : President George W Bush on Wednesday nominated former US trade negotiator Robert Zoellick to head the World Bank, tapping a seasoned diplomat to lead the anti-poverty agency out of bitter divisions over Paul Wolfowitz's leadership.

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Zoellick, 53, will take over for a five-year term if approved by the board of the 185-nation development lender. Wolfowitz, a former Pentagon official, is stepping down June 30 after a scandal over a pay raise he arranged for his girlfriend at the bank.

"We need to put yesterday's discord behind us and focus on the future together. I believe that the World Bank's best days are still to come," Zoellick said after Bush formally announced his nomination at the White House.

Currently a Wall Street executive, Zoellick pledged to reach out to the bank's staff, donor countries and nations that receive World Bank aid before the bank's board chooses a new president by June 30.

Bush called Zoellick "a committed internationalist," citing his diplomatic experience ranging from German reunification in 1990 to Latin American debt relief and peace efforts for Darfur.

"He is deeply devoted to the mission of the World Bank. He wants to help struggling nations defeat poverty, to grow their economies and offer their people the hope of a better life," Bush said.

"This man is eminently qualified," he said.

As US trade representative in Bush's first term, Zoellick was a key figure in economic relations with China. He became deputy secretary of state at the start of Bush's second term but was passed over to head the World Bank in 2005 when Bush chose Wolfowitz.

Zoellick has to rebuild morale at the bank after Wolfowitz antagonized managers and staff with his leadership style and by bringing in aides from the Bush administration camp.

In his State Department post, Zoellick sought to dampen tensions with US allies over the Iraq war – a background that may help him mend deep rifts between Washington and Europe over Wolfowitz, a key planner of the war.

Zoellick left government in 2006 to become vice chairman for international business at Goldman Sachs. He holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School and was an envoy to Group of Eight summits for former president George Bush, father of the current president.

Under an unwritten rule, a US nominee leads the World Bank and a European heads the International Monetary Fund.