Government welcomes Wolfowitz resignation

Paul Wolfowitz will leave office at the end of June Keystone

The Swiss economics ministry has welcomed the decision of embattled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to step down at the end of June.

This content was published on May 18, 2007 minutes

While recognising Wolfowitz's personal engagement in implementing an action plan for Africa and in the area of global warming, the ministry said his resignation would help resolve the conflict within the World Bank.

Spokeswoman Evelyn Kobelt said the work of the global lending body had been increasingly hampered in recent weeks by disagreement among Bank members over whether he should continue in the post.

"We are relieved that the World Bank will now be able to return to normality as quickly as possible," she said on Friday.

Economics Minister Doris Leuthard said last month that Wolfowitz should consider whether he was "the right person" to head the institution. Without explicitly calling for his resignation, she said she hoped an internal Bank inquiry would bring a solution in the coming weeks.

Mounting pressure

A row broke out earlier this year when details emerged about Wolfowitz's role in securing a pay rise for his girlfriend, who was seconded to the US state Department from the World Bank to avoid a conflict of interest.

The United States continued to support him, but many European countries questioned whether he should continue in his position. World Bank employees also called on him to go.

Wolfowitz announced his resignation on Thursday evening, saying he had concluded that it was in the Bank's best interests for someone else to lead it. The White House responded that President Bush reluctantly accepted his decision.

The Zurich-based Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper said that politics, as well as differences between the US and Europe, had played a large role in Wolfowitz' departure.

Another Zurich newspaper, the Tages-Anzeiger, commented that Wolfowitz, a former US deputy defence minister who was appointed to the World Bank post in 2005, was "the wrong man at the wrong time".

"As the architect of the Iraq war, he must from the outset have been a provocation to World Bank employees specialised in dealing with poverty-related issues; their core task stood and stands in sharp contrast to the ideology of the neo-conservatives who wanted to force their ideas of democracy onto Iraq."

swissinfo with agencies

World Bank

The World Bank, which is based in Washington, offers financial and technical aid to developing countries around the world.

It is made up of two development institutions owned by 185 member countries, including Switzerland – the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association.

The bank came into being on December 27, 1945 after ratification of the Bretton Woods agreements, which came out of the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in 1944.

These set up a system of rules, institutions and procedures to regulate the international monetary system.

It approved its first loan in 1947 ($250 million for postwar reconstruction to France). Switzerland joined the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 1992.

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Paul Wolfowitz

Born in 1943, he is a United States former academic and government official.

As US Deputy Secretary of State in the administration of President George W. Bush, he was one of the main architects of the US invasion of Iraq.

He was appointed president of the World Bank Group on June 1, 2005.

Wolfowitz resigned on May 17 (effective June 30) following controversies about his leadership.

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