World Bank to tighten security belt for Wolfowitz arrival

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Despite controversy ignited by the White House nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank (WB), the 24-member board of directors voted unanimously on Thursday to accept his confirmation. A whirlwind tour by Wolfowitz, who traveled to many capital cities of the bank’s major shareholders and met with voting board members, quieted misgivings over his succession to the incumbent president John Wolfensohn.

Widespread criticism of the Wolfowitz role in the US build-up to war in Iraq heightened levels of security concerns within the bank as they anticipate his arrival. The WB, from the executive level down to memos circulated among departments, express concern for it becoming the target of terrorist attack. The level of seriousness being taken by WB led it to set up cost estimates for improving security.

Wolfowitz will assume leadership in June this year. Despite a belief by some that he acts unilaterally and lacks development experience, a European Commission spokeswoman, speaking for Commissioner Olli Rehn, told a news conference that[Rehn] "was satisfied with everything he heard from Mr Wolfowitz concerning free trade and also on poverty reduction and development policy."

The Associated Press quotes the Belgian Development Aid minister saying, "There are no objections of EU countries."

The public display of support belies dissention underneath. Reuters reportedly received a confidential email that provided details of a comment line on an internal website for the WB staff who use it from their far flung locations. The feelings about the Wolfowitz nomination received 1,300 responses, mostly about the bank’s reputation and effectiveness under the new leadership.

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