‘Zoellick to be new World Bank chief’


Washington : President George W. Bush has chosen former US trade negotiator and diplomat Robert Zoellick to replace Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank president.

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Zoellick, an executive at Goldman Sachs Group, would take over for a five-year term if approved by the board of the 185-nation development lending agency, the Bloomberg financial news agency reported Tuesday, citing a senior US administration official.

Wolfowitz will leave the agency June 30 after his resignation amid a bitter scandal over a promotion and pay raise he arranged for his girlfriend, who worked at the bank when he took over in June 2005.

Zoellick, 53, would have to rebuild morale at the bank after Wolfowitz antagonized managers and staff with his leadership style and by bringing in aides closely associated with the Bush administration.

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.

In his diplomatic 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 former US deputy defence secretary and 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 formerly 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. The US administration made it clear that it intended to continue the arrangement, which has existed since the agencies were founded.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said earlier Tuesday that Bush was likely this week to announce a replacement for Wolfowitz.