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Face-saving exercise in the making; Wolfowitz working on resignation

April 24, 2012

The ongoing leadership crisis at the World Bank is heading for a speedy conclusion. Beleaguered World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz, is negotiating an agreement to resign, if sources are to be believed. Wolfowitz is seeking a face-saving arrangement that would allow him to resign and at the same time evade some responsibility for the conflict of interest. As the Bank’s 24-member board deliberated the ad hoc panel’s report on Wednesday, there were reports of a compromise that would partially blame the bank’s ethical committee for the fracas over his girlfriend’s pay rise. The news of a settlement comes a day after Washington, apparently, distanced itself from the WB President. On Tuesday, White house spokesman Tony Snow had said: All options are on the table. Members of the board (and) Mr. Wolfowitz need to sit down and figure out what is in fact going to be best for this bank. Even though White House stressed that this wasn’t a loss of faith in Wolfowitz’s leadership, the latter thought otherwise. On Wednesday, while presenting himself before the Board, Wolfowitz, seeked to rescue the situation and pave for a better departure. According to his lawyer Robert Benett: Mr Wolfowitz will not resign under this cloud and he will rather put this matter to a full vote [of the board]. However, it seems, the board does not share the same opinion. The Reuters quoted an unnamed official, ‘familiar with the talks,’ as saying: We’re looking at reaching an agreement that avoids a vote (on the 24-member World Bank board) and that offers him wording he can accept so he resigns. The negotiations, which failed to conclude yesterday, are expected to continue today, and hopefully, decide Wolfowitz’s fate for final. On Tuesday, Wolfowitz had submitted a final plea to retain his job. He had submitted before the board: I implore each of you to be fair in making your decision, because your decision will not only affect my life, it will affect how this institution is viewed in the United States and the world.. fear that the way this recent inquiry is handled has the potential to do greater long-term damage to the institution than the alleged underlying ethics issue that was, in point of fact, put to rest over a year ago. If you want to have a discussion about my leadership, my management style and the policies I support, let us do it. That’s fair. That’s legitimate. But let’s get past this conflict-of-interest matter. Paul Wolfowitz was answering the board for the ethical committee report, released on Monday, which had pronounced him guilty and cast aspersions over his ability to lead the bank. The report had concluded that Wolfowitz broke conflict-of-interest rules while handling the transfer and pay package of his companion Shaha Riza in 2005. As board deliberations resume today, many expect Wolfowitz to resign amidst increasing pressure from the European countries calling for the same. Several European nations went to the extent of saying that they would even resist a U.S. bid to keep Wolfowitz in the job. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, the German Development Minister, said that Wolfowitz would do a great service to the bank and himself by resigning. He added that in the event resignation didn’t come about, Wolfowitz wouldn’t be invited to the Africa Forum next week. Thursday is here; let us see what happens next. Would he be in the office come Friday? Looks like the dice are loaded against someone.