Wolfowitz aide resigns from World Bank
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One of two close aides to World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz resigned on Monday, saying turmoil at the bank over its current leadership has made it difficult for him to do his job.
The departure of Kevin Kellems is a blow in a critical week for Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraq war who is now under fire for his handling of a lucrative promotion and pay raise for his companion, Shaha Riza, a Middle East expert at the bank.
Kellems, who served as an adviser to Wolfowitz from 2002 when he was U.S. deputy defense secretary and before he became World Bank president in 2005, told Reuters he was leaving to pursue other opportunities.
Kellems worked briefly for U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney as spokesman before he rejoined Wolfowitz at the World Bank in 2005 because of his experience in development issues.
"Given the current environment surrounding the leadership of the World Bank Group, it is very difficult to be effective in helping to advance the mission of the institution," Kellems said.
"I have tremendous respect and admiration for the bank staff and management and treasure the many friendships," he said.
Wolfowitz's two years as president of the bank also have been marred by criticism that he depended on a coterie of aides including Kellems and Robin Cleveland he brought from the Pentagon and White House. That worsened his standing among bank employees by isolating him from career staffers.
Meanwhile, a special bank panel appointed to look into whether Wolfowitz broke rules or abused his powers in the handling of Riza's transfer to the State Department and pay raise had completed its findings and presented the report to Wolfowitz, sources said on Monday.
The sources said the report would be submitted to the bank's board of shareholder governments on Tuesday, with a follow-up meeting later in the week, possibly on Wednesday, where Wolfowitz's future at the bank will be decided.
According to the sources, there is "widespread feeling" on among board directors that it is virtually impossible for Wolfowitz to stay on as president for the rest of his term
because of the damage to the bank's credibility and its ability to be effective.
In Brussels, Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos stressed it was important that the bank's reputation was not undermined.
"The bank can only do a good job if there is a good and sound reputation," Bos told reporters. "I am concerned about this reputation at the moment."
Board sources said the key to whether Wolfowitz stays or goes is if the United States, the bank's biggest and most influential shareholder who nominated Wolfowitz for the job, puts pressure on the board, especially on European countries, to allow Wolfowitz to continue.
The White House has repeatedly said that U.S. President George W. Bush has confidence in Wolfowitz.
Wolfowitz has said he is the victim of a smear campaign designed to discredit his leadership and undermine his campaign to position the bank at the forefront of fighting corruption in developing countries.
Wolfowitz said he followed that guidance, but the former head of the ethics committee complained Wolfowitz improperly handled the arrangement and never notified the panel of his actions. In response, Wolfowitz called such criticism "grossly unfair and wrong" by suggesting he intended to mislead anyone.
The controversy also has raised questions about the bank's traditional management procedures, especially the selection of its president and the transparency of the board.
Since the bank's inception after World War Two, the United States has always nominated the president without objection while the head of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, has always been a European.