Saturday, March 19, 2005

[Terrorism] Wolfowitz attempt to win over critics

Paul Wolfowitz, picked by President George W. Bush to head the World Bank, said on Friday his image as an architect of the Iraq war was an incomplete portrait and he was confident he could win over his critics for the job.

In an interview with Reuters, Wolfowitz said that if confirmed in the post, "I am certainly not going to impose the U.S. agenda on the bank."

Such words are intended to comfort his critics in Europe and elsewhere who fear that he would change bank policies to reflect Bush's foreign and social policies.

The U.S. deputy defense secretary described his critics as "people who don't know me" and said when they once "get to know me they will realize fairly quickly that I'm about a lot more than military issues, about a lot more than just the Iraq war and that a good deal that has been written about me is an inaccurate caricature."

Although his candidacy is contentious because of his part in the Iraq war, Wolfowitz's approval by the bank's board, which operates by consensus, is likely a foregone conclusion.

The United States has the largest voting share on the 24-member board, which represents the 184 member states, and traditionally nominates the bank president.

As part of an intensive lobbying effort to defuse opposition to his nomination and prepare himself for the new bank role, Wolfowitz on Friday met Asian, Saudi and French bank directors in his first meetings with board members.

He still faces interviews with African and other European countries, less enthusiastic about his candidacy. A persuasive communicator, he has called finance ministers and development officials around the world to convince them of his qualifications and assure them of his cooperation.

In the interview in his Pentagon office, Wolfowitz pledged to work closely with nongovernmental groups active in development and poverty reduction.

He also said relations between the World Bank and its sister organization the International Monetary Fund were a "critical issue." The World Bank and IMF are often criticized for overlapping in their work in developing countries.

Wolfowitz said that while there was no single answer to the challenge of terrorism, working to reduce poverty could diminish the terrorist threat.

He described the relationship between terrorism and poverty as complicated, because some leading militants, including the man blamed for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States -- Osama Bin Laden -- were wealthy, while the people they recruited often lived in miserable conditions.

Some theorists argue reducing poverty will remove a rationale that propels some people into extremist, anti-Western acts.

"I don't think there is a single answer to the challenge of terrorism" and endeavoring to combat terrorism is not the reason to work on poverty reduction, which has "worthy goals, noble goals in themselves," he said.

But "I think poverty reduction will help" in the war against terrorism, he said.

A former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Wolfowitz said he would work to use the bank's economic development tools to strengthen democracy there and elsewhere.

"I do believe that reducing poverty contributes enormously to political development," Wolfowitz said.

Saturday March 19, Online Reuters Report