WASHINGTON – The Bush administration's choice to run the World Bank could be revealed as soon as this week, the White House said Tuesday.
The United States for several weeks has been scouting candidates to replace Paul Wolfowitz, who will leave the poverty-fighting institution on June 30.
"I think we're getting pretty close," White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters. Bush is likely to announce his choice this week, Snow added.
Wolfowitz's resignation follows 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 prompted calls from Europeans, the bank's staff, aid groups, Democratic politicians and others for Wolfowitz to step down.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is leading the effort to find a replacement.
Bush's selection must be approved by the World Bank's board.
Former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who was Bush's former trade chief, has emerged as a top candidate for the post. He is now an executive at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs. When he was the U.S. trade representative, Zoellick, who has strong contacts around the globe, played a key role in negotiations to bring China and Taiwan into the World Trade Organization.
Another candidate getting a close look is Robert Kimmitt, the No. 2 official at the Treasury Department. He has served as senior international counsel in the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, and was an executive vice president for global public policy at Time Warner Inc. He was ambassador to Germany from 1991 to 1993, when Bush's father was president, and speaks fluent German.
Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist — whose name also had been floated — has told administration officials he did not want to be considered for the top job at the bank, citing his desire to take a break from government work. Frist, a Tennessee Republican, served two terms in the U.S. Senate, where he was a close ally to President Bush.
By tradition, the World 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 practice intact. However, some aid groups and other critics have called for the decades-old practice to be scrapped.