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European Ministers Endorse Wolfowitz to Head World Bank

Wolfowitz said he was “eager to take on this challenge” of heading the bank. He also acknowledged that there were some concerns over his nomination.

“I understand that I am, to put it mildly, a controversial figure,” Wolfowitz said. “But I hope that as people get to know me better they will understand that I really do believe deeply in the mission of the (World) Bank.”

Belgian Development Aid minister Armand De Decker told reports “there are no objections of EU countries.” Wolfowitz met in Brussels for two hours with development and finance ministers at EU headquarters.

Wolfowitz, who is still the U.S. deputy defense secretary, is expected to be sworn in as World Bank president Thursday.

German Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said that the ministers discussed with Wolfowitz his neo-conservative reputation.

“This is the past he has,” Wieczorek-Zeul said. “But it’s also clear that this is for him a new beginning, and we judge him according to what he said today.”

Wolfowitz said he was committed to multilateralism and wanted to make the fight against poverty his first priority.

Development Cooperation Minister Agnes van Ardenne said the EU made clear it expects the World Bank president to work independently of the U.S. government.

“We are aware of the fact that he is still very close to the Bush administration… but on the other hand he is very much committed to the World Bank as a multilateral institute and I think that removes a lot of concern from our heads and hearts as development ministers,” van Ardenne said.

French officials hoped for more European influence in global aid distribution and nominated Jean-Pierre Jouyet, chairman of the Paris Club — an international debt relief agency — for the new job of deputy president.

According to the French diplomats, Jouyet would help relieve fears in Europe that Wolfowitz would use the Bank as a platform for President Bush’s international agenda.

Wolfowitz did not address the possibility of a French deputy president, but did say that the World Bank’s management must “reflect the fact that it is a multilateral institution” and that Europe is the bank’s largest single donor.

The United States traditionally nominates the head of the World Bank while Europe supervises the International Monetary Fund.

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