He promoted girlfriend; board of directors promises quick action

  • I made a mistake: Wolfowitz
  • Bush continues to support him

    WASHINGTON

    Washington: The president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, was on Thursday night battling to save his job after admitting he had blundered over the handling of a promotion and pay rise for his partner, Shaha Riza.

    After a series of revelations about the way he arranged for Ms Riza to be seconded to the State Department and receive pay rises totalling $61,000, Wolfowitz's future was being discussed by the bank's 24-strong board.

    It was thought unlikely that the board would take the unprecedented step of sacking the bank's president, but Wolfowitz's public apology was seen in Washington as an indication of the serious damage the row has caused to his reputation.

    Under Wolfowitz, a leading architect of the Iraq war appointed to the World Bank two years ago, the bank has sought to make the fight against corruption the central plank of its work and at a press conference to launch the spring meetings of the bank in Washington this week-end he was asked whether he now had enough credibility to continue such a campaign.

    Wolfowitz pleaded for understanding for his "painful personal dilemma" and sought to divert attention by focusing on the need to raise aid levels to the developing world. However, he faced repeated questions about his integrity.

    The controversy erupted last week when the bank's staff association questioned the treatment of Ms Riza. The board has since been investigating Ms Riza's secondment, amid allegations that Mr Wolfowitz personally directed the head of human resources to offer a generous pay rise and promotion. The Bank's staff association says the deal broke the rules and called yesterday for all the papers relating to the case to be made public.

    Wolfowitz said he had acted after taking advice from the bank's ethics committee, and made it clear that he was not planning to resign. "I made a good faith effort to implement my understanding of that advice, and it was done in order to take responsibility for settling an issue that I believed had potential to harm the institution ... In hindsight, I wish I had trusted my original instincts and kept myself out of the negotiations. I made a mistake, for which I am sorry."

    Wolfowitz joined the bank in mid-2005 after serving as Deputy Defence Secretary at the Pentagon, but as one of the chief architects of the Bush administration's war strategy in Iraq his appointment was controversial from the outset.

    More In: Today's Paper