U.S.

ALEX COHEN, host:

Paul Wolfowitz, the beleaguered president of the World Bank, will spend this weekend prepping his defense. He's desperately trying to hold onto his job. Wolfowitz is accused of arranging a promotion and a big pay raise for his girlfriend. The World Bank Committee, that's investigating will meet with him and his lawyer on Monday. There was a big development in this case yesterday.

NPR's Tom Gjelten joins us now. Just how much trouble is Paul Wolfowitz in right now?

TOM GJELTEN: Alex, I would say his situation is virtually hopeless at this point. The big development yesterday that you referred to is the disappearance of kind of the last vestige of support for Paul Wolfowitz from within the bank. His number one priority, as you know, has been fighting corruption.

And yesterday, the bank managers who had been directing and designing this fight on Wolfowitz's behalf put up this extraordinary letter saying that at this point, their efforts are being undermined, their credibility is being undermined by the questions being raised about governance within the bank itself, and that's a clear reference to Paul Wolfowitz.

They say there are questions about the bank's ability to practice what it preaches when it comes to governance and anti-corruption. When these group turns against Wolfowitz, that to me, I think, is really the last straw for him.

COHEN: Are his fellow employees calling for him to resign?

GJELTEN: They were very careful not to do that. In fact, they didn't even mention the name Paul Wolfowitz. However, if you look at this letter, it's very clear what they're talking about. They say that the bank's governance standards must be enforced impartially and without exception, even when they touch the highest levels of this institution. That to me is a clear reference to the president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz.

COHEN: What about Paul Wolfowitz's female companion Shaha Riza, the one who got the big pay raise. What does she had to say in the midst of all this?

GJELTEN: Well, I think, it's unfortunate that she has in the sense been dragged into this because she is a fairly esteemed person at the bank. She's got her own professional record. She feels and, I think understandably that her career has now been threatened by her association with this. She was definitely on an upward track at the bank. Her work was very well respected. Now there's a shadow hanging over it.

COHEN: The U.S. has traditionally been allowed to choose the president of the World Bank. Let's say if Paul Wolfowitz isn't in that spot any longer, would the Bush administration be able to nominate someone new? And if so, any ideas who they might choose?

GJELTEN: Alex, that's a really big and important question. There is huge discontent within the World Bank community and also the International Monetary Fund. Over this old practice of letting the United States choose the World Bank president and the Europeans choose the IMF president. I think that custom is likely to change now.

However, in the short run, should Wolfowitz go, the United States will probably be allowed to suggest the successor, and that suggestion will probably be followed. But it is likely to be a short-term person, just filling out Wolfowitz's term. And when that term ends, I think, we're likely to see some move to really change this whole appointment process, open it up to more participation.

COHEN: NPR's Tom Gjelten, thank you so much for joining us.

GJELTEN: Thank you, Alex.

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