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Europeans are the latest to weigh in on Paul Wolfowitz, the embattled president of the World Bank. Wolfowitz is under fire for helping to get a pay raise for a female friend and colleague. Yesterday the European parliament passed a resolution saying that Wolfowitz's resignation would be a welcome step. But he evidently will not go without a fight, as NPR's Tom Gjelten reports.
TOM GJELTEN: The European parliament, preparing for a U.S./European summit next week in Washington, urged U.S. and European governments to jointly ask Wolfowitz to step down. A parliamentary resolution said his resignation would help prevent the World Bank's anti-corruption policy from being undermined.
But Wolfowitz appears determined to hang on. He showed up at the White House yesterday to commemorate Malaria Awareness Day. And President Bush gave him a fresh vote of confidence.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: I appreciate very much the fact that the World Bank is taking the lead in eradicating poverty in places like Africa. Paul Wolfowitz, thank you for your leadership of the World Bank.
GJELTEN: One of Wolfowitz's two managing directors at the bank has told him he should resign for the institution's own long-term interests; so have more than 40 former top World Bank executives. But Wolfowitz is responding defiantly to these calls. Five days ago he hired noted Washington lawyer Bob Bennett to represent him while he's being investigated by an ad hoc committee of the World Bank executive board.
Bennett, who previously defended President Clinton, this week said he'd like to make a presentation to the committee on Wolfowitz's behalf, and he asked for time to help Wolfowitz prepare a defense. But the investigating committee is refusing both requests.
On Tuesday evening, the committee asked Wolfowitz if he could appear the next morning at a meeting to answer questions on various matters. In response, Wolfowitz sent the committee a letter saying he would need more time. And he objected to the committee's refusal to let his lawyer speak.
According to someone who has seen the letter, Wolfowitz complained to the bank board that he is being treated, quote, "shabbily." The meeting was not held. Some bank insiders say Wolfowitz's hiring of a high-profile lawyer like Bob Bennett could backfire if bank board members view it as a hostile move.
They point out that the bank's executive board has its own established procedures for handling this investigation. Board members, they say, may view Bennett's involvement as interference. Reached by telephone last evening, Bennett told NPR he has exchanged no harsh words with any bank officials and has no intention of getting into a confrontation with the World Bank board.
Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.