World Bank's Zoellick to step down, U.S. eyes spot

Wed Feb 15, 2012 4:36pm EST
 
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By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on Wednesday he will step down in June and Washington pledged to put a replacement candidate forward within weeks for a job that has always gone to an American.

The Obama administration said it would open the process to competition, marking the first time it has shown willingness to loosen its grip on the world's top development lender.

Zoellick took the reins at the Bank in 2007 after a staff revolt pushed out Paul Wolfowitz, and he moved quickly to return the institution's focus to alleviating poverty.

Developing countries have for years pressed for a greater voice in leading global financial institutions and are likely to stress the importance of a competitive process, but the United States is still widely expected to retain its hold on the job.

"It is very important that we continue to have strong, effective leadership of this important institution, and in the coming weeks, we plan to put forward a candidate with experience and requisite qualities to take this institution forward," U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a statement.

While Geithner called for an "open and expeditious process," analysts say Washington can ill afford to give up the post without risking the U.S. Congress cutting funding for the Bank.

UNDECIDED ON FUTURE

In an interview with Reuters, Zoellick said his decision to leave on June 30 at the end of his five-year term was his own and was not due to pressure from the Obama administration.   Continued...

 
World Bank President Robert Zoellick attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, January 28, 2012. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann