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Bush to announce new pick for World Bank chief

Published May 30, 2007


WASHINGTON -Robert Zoellick, a nimble negotiator who has crisscrossed the globe as President Bush's trade chief and as the country's No. 2 diplomat, is the White House's choice to be the next World Bank president.

Bush will announce the decision today, according to a senior administration official.

Zoellick, 53, a seasoned veteran of politics both inside Washington and on the international stage, has a knack for mastering intricate subject matter and translating it into policies. He is known for pulling facts and figures off the top of his head. He also has a reputation for being a demanding boss.

He would succeed Paul Wolfowitz, who is stepping down June 30 after findings by a special bank panel that he broke bank rules when he arranged a hefty compensation package in 2005 for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a bank employee.

The controversy led to calls from Europeans, the bank's staff, aid groups, Democratic politicians and others for Wolfowitz to resign from the poverty-fighting institution.

Bush's selection of Zoellick (ZEL-ik) must be approved by the World Bank's 24-member board.

The White House expects Zoellick to gain the board's acceptance. The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of Bush's announcement, said so far other nations have had a positive reaction.

Zoellick announced last June that he was leaving his post as deputy secretary of state to join a Wall Street firm and work to develop investment markets around the world.

At the time, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Zoellick had served as her "alter ego" in the department. He was widely believed to have been interested in getting a promotion and becoming treasury secretary, but that job went to Goldman Sachs chief Henry Paulson.

If ultimately approved as World Bank chief, Zoellick will need to regain trust, rebuild credibility and mend frayed relations inside the institution as well as with its member countries around the world.

All of those things are critical for the bank's new leader, who will have to persuade countries to contribute close to $30-billion over the next few years to fund a centerpiece bank program that provides interest-free loans to the poorest countries.

Zoellick has built strong contacts around the globe over the years.

He is now an executive at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs. As Bush's deputy secretary of state he focused on a range of diplomatic duties from Sudan peace talks to strategic discussions with China.

Before that, as U.S. trade representative, Zoellick played a key role in negotiations to bring China into the World Trade Organization. He forged free trade deals between the United States and other countries, including Singapore, Chile, Australia and Morocco. And, he had helped to launch global trade talks in Doha, Qatar.

Under Bush's father's administration, Zoellick worked closely with then-Secretary of State James Baker on policies pertaining to the end of the Cold War. He also had worked on negotiations on German unification.

Zoellick had been considered for the World Bank post before, when former chief James Wolfensohn left. But Bush gave the job to Wolfowitz.

The World Bank, created in 1945 to rebuild Europe after World War II, provides more than $20-billion a year for projects such as building dams and roads, bolstering education and fighting disease.

One of the bank's main programs offers interest-free loans to impoverished countries.

By tradition, the bank has been run by an American, while its sister agency, the International Monetary Fund, is headed by a European. The United States, the bank's biggest financial contributor and largest shareholder, wants to keep that going. However, some aid groups and other critics have called for the decades-old practice to be scrapped.

Fast Facts:

Robert B. Zoellick

Age: 53; born July 25, 1953.

Education: Bachelor of arts degree, Swarthmore College, 1975; master's of public policy and Juris Doctor, Harvard University, 1981.

Some experience: Executive at Goldman Sachs, 2006-present; deputy secretary of state, Feb. 2005-June 2006; U.S. trade representative 2001-2005; fellow at think tank German Marshall Fund, 1999-2001; executive vice president, Fannie Mae, 1993-97; deputy chief of staff to former President George Bush, 1992-93.

Family: Wife, Sherry.

[Last modified May 30, 2007, 01:40:06]

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