The end of days?

Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz (AP)

Paul Wolfowitz's future as World Bank president rests with the 24 board members who are trying to resolve conflict of interest charges that have roiled the poverty fighting institution.

The board planned to resume deliberations Thursday.

Wolfowitz wants a face-saving deal that would allow him to resign under his own terms and escape some blame for the furor involving his girlfriend's compensation.

Pressure on Wolfowitz to step down has grown since Monday's release of a bank panel report in his handling of the 2005 pay package of bank employee Shaha Riza.

Wolfowitz contends he acted in good faith.

The 185-nation World Bank, created in 1945 to rebuild Europe after World War II, now provides more than $20 billion a year for projects such as building dams and roads, bolstering education and fighting disease. The bank's centerpiece program today offers interest-free loans to the poorest countries.

By tradition, an American has run the bank, with the board's approval. A European heads the bank's sister agency, the International Monetary Fund.

The United States, the bank's biggest financial contributor, wants to keep that decades-old tradition intact.

Riza worked for the bank before Wolfowitz took over as president in June 2005. She was moved to the State Department to avoid a conflict of interest, but stayed on the bank's payroll.

Her salary went from close to $133,000 to $180,000. With subsequent raises, it eventually rose to $193,590.

The bank panel concluded that the salary increase Riza received "at Mr. Wolfowitz's direction was in excess of the range" allowed under bank rules.

The panel said Wolfowitz "placed himself in a conflict of interest situation" when he became involved in the terms and details of Riza's assignment and pay package and "he should have withdrawn from any decision-making in the matter."

European members — led by France, Germany and the Netherlands — are pushing for Wolfowitz to resign. The White House, for the first time, suggested this week that it would be open to a change of leadership.


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