The controversial US candidate to head the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, won crucial backing from European leaders here Wednesday, overriding qualms over his central role in the Iraq war.
Wolfowitz made no specific promises in Brussels Wednesday
Wolfowitz, the US deputy defense secretary, sought to reassure Europeans that they would have an important influence at the development institution, saying he planned to build a "multinational" senior management team if confirmed as president.
But he declined to make any promises after holding talks with European finance chiefs, a day before World Bank directors choose a new president.
"It's very important ... that the senior management of the bank reflect the fact that it is a multilateral institution," Wolfowitz said, when asked if he would appoint a European as vice-president.
"It needs to reflect the fact that the European countries as a group are the largest single donors to the Bank ... But it also needs to reflect the full diversity of donors and recipients," he said.
European Commission satisfied
The European Commission, the EU's executive, expressed satisfaction with the assurances from Wolfowitz.
The European Commission was "satisfied with ... Mr. Wolfowitz, his assurances on development policy, more specifically on trade issues and poverty reduction," a spokeswoman said.
The nomination of Wolfowitz sparked widespread criticism because of his lack of development experience and because of his role in organizing the Iraq war.
Germany hopes for new beginning
Germany's Minister for Cooperation and Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul
German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said Europe was not focusing on Wolfowitz's involvement in the Iraq war but rather on his views on development.
"This is for him a new beginning and we'll judge him according to what he said today at the discussions," she said.
But Belgian Development Minister Armand de Decker hinted at lingering concerns.
"What worries us a bit is that he is always talking about economic development," he said. "What does he mean by economic development? Development is economic but it is not only economic. So there are some things that need to be cleared up."
EU stresses Millenium Development goals
At an EU summit last week, European leaders signaled that they were resigned to the nomination of Wolfowitz by Washington to head the Bank, which focuses on long-term development projects and support for developing countries.
As president of the World Bank, Wolfowitz would lead 10,000 staff in Washington and around the world, overseeing a $9 billion (6.9 billion euro) annual aid budget which for many poor countries is a development lifeline.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who holds the EU's presidency, said the Europeans wanted the meeting with Wolfowitz "to make sure the Millenium Development goals are the basis on which the incoming president of World Bank organizes his
The United Nation's so-called Millenium Development goals, set in September 2000, aim to slash global poverty in half by 2015, step up the fight against diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis, and increase access to education.
The Europeans want to get a candidate of their own at the World Bank to act as Wolfowitz's deputy, diplomats said Tuesday.
The French have put forward two names: Jean-Pierre Jouyet, head of the Paris Club of creditor nations, and Jean-Pierre Landau, who has written a report for French President Jacques Chirac about the feasibility of an international tax to finance development.
Paris also wants another deputy to Wolfowitz from a developing country. The current number two at the bank is Shengman Zhang of China.
World Bank President James Wolfensohn
Traditionally, Europe chooses the managing director of the IMF and the United States appoints the head of the World Bank. The informal rule has never been broken since the two institutions were set up in the wake of World War II. Outgoing World Bank chief James Wolfensohn, 71, is due to step down in June after a decade in office.