Wolfowitz to Face World Bank Panel

Paul Wolfowitz, the beleaguered president of the World Bank, is likely to spend this weekend huddled with his lawyer, Robert Bennett, in an effort to hold on to his job.

On Monday, he and Bennett are due to meet with a committee of World Bank executive directors investigating whether Wolfowitz broke bank rules in arranging a pay raise and promotion for a female companion and colleague.

Bank insiders say the Monday meeting could be Wolfowitz's final opportunity to make his case for staying at the World Bank. In recent days, senior bank officials and several European governments have called on Wolfowitz to resign, saying the allegations against him have weakened the bank and undermined its credibility.

The arrangement of the meeting came after a contentious dispute between Wolfowitz and the committee leadership. Herman Wijffels of the Netherlands, the committee chairman, contacted Wolfowitz on Tuesday evening, asking him to appear before the committee the following morning to answer questions about his role in the promotion and transfer of his female companion, Shaha Riza, who was herself a senior Bank employee.

Wolfowitz responded to Wijffels on Wednesday morning with a sternly written letter, complaining that the committee was treating him "shabbily and unfairly" and objecting to the committee's refusal to allow Bennett to represent him in the meeting.

Some bank officials were offended by the Wolfowitz letter, because his contract does not provide for the legal representation he was requesting; it refers only to a bank rule that "the president shall cease to hold office when the executive directors so decide."

As if Wolfowitz were not in enough trouble already, he was dealt another blow on Friday, when his top anti-corruption managers signed a group letter saying the credibility of their efforts around the world is eroding in the face of questions about the bank's ability "to practice what it preaches."

The group called for "clear and decisive actions to resolve this crisis quickly in a way that demonstrates the Bank's commitment to the highest standards of integrity in leadership and accountability."

The signers of the letter did not specifically call on Wolfowitz to resign, but pointed out that the bank's governance standards must be "enforced impartially and without exception," "even when they touch the highest levels of this institution."

The letter was especially damaging to Wolfowitz, because he has made the fight against corruption one of his top priorities at the World Bank; several of the people who signed the letter had been closely allied with him in that effort.

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