"He's a man of good experience ... Paul is committed to development. He's a compassionate, decent man who will do a fine job at the World Bank," Bush told reporters in a morning press conference.
Bush indicated that he has begun notifying other countries that Wolfowitz, 61, is the U.S. candidate to replace World Bank President James Wolfensohn (search). Bush told reporters in a morning press conference that he called Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi about the matter.
"I'll give you a hint. It has to do with the World Bank," he said of the topic of his call. He later added that Wolfensohn "made a very strong comment about Wolfowitz's candidacy that he said will be "very important for people to get to know Paul better before the vote is taken."
Wolfensohn is stepping down as head of the 184-nation development bank on June 1 at the end of his second five-year term. In a statement, he said he has known Wolfowitz personally and professionally for a long time. "I look forward to ... doing everything that I possibly can to ensure a successful transition."
Wolfowitz has been Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's top deputy and a lightning rod for criticism over the U.S. invasion of Iraq and other defense policies. Wolfowitz is described by the administration as a key architect in the War on Terror and the administration's efforts to spread liberty around the world.
Upon hearing news of Bush's intention, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she found Wolfowitz's nomination "difficult to understand" and added that members of the House Democratic Caucus (search) have been demanding Wolfowitz's removal from his Pentagon post for a long time.
"Maybe this is the president's way of removing him from the Defense Department," the California Democrat said.
But former Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen praised Wolfowitz.
"He has a keen understanding of the tides and trends that have shaped our world since the end of the Cold War," Cohen said, "and a deep commitment to liberty and improving the quality of life for suffering people."
The United States is the World Bank's largest member nation. The bank traditionally has had an American president. Its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, traditionally has been headed by a European.
If given the post, Wolfowitz would try to influence international relations through means of diplomacy other than war. He would be in charge of helping push for Bush's proposals for major reforms in World Bank operations, including changing loan aid to grants, which don't have to be repaid.
Administration officials said Wolfowitz, who has served in six administrations, has considerable experience that makes him the best candidate for the bank. He has managed large bureaucracies like the Pentagon, has worked as a diplomat at the State Department, where he helped the Philippines transition to democracy following the reign of Ferdinand Marcos, and was the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia under President Reagan.
Wolfowitz also served as dean and professor of international relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University and was a George F. Kennan Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College. He has taught at both Yale and Johns Hopkins University.
Other names who had been mentioned as possible successors to Wolfensohn included Carly Fiorina, the recently ousted chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Co.; John Taylor, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for international affairs; Peter McPherson, the former head of Michigan State University who served as Bush's point man on rebuilding Iraq's financial system; Randall Tobias, Bush's global AIDS coordinator; and Christine Todd Whitman, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
FOX News' Carl Cameron and Molly Hooper and The Associated Press contributed to this report.