EU lawmakers call for Wolfowitz to step down
STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The European Parliament on Wednesday called for the resignation of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, adding to the pressure on the head of the poverty-fighting institution to step down.
Wolfowitz, a former member of the Bush administration, has already faced calls to give up his post after revelations that he approved a promotion and pay raise for his bank-employee girlfriend before she was assigned to work at the U.S. State Department.
Lawmakers asked EU leaders to press the White House over the subject at a EU-U.S. summit in Washington on Monday.
They voted 333-251 with 31 abstentions to include a paragraph in a resolution on transatlantic relations calling on Germany, holder of the 27-nation bloc's rotating presidency, and the United States to ask Wolfowitz to stand down.
They should "signal to the president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, that his withdrawal from the post would be a welcome step towards preventing the bank's anti-corruption policy from being undermined," the paragraph said.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are attending the summit with President George W. Bush, who nominated Wolfowitz for the World Bank job in early 2005.
The full EU resolution was passed by the parliament, the only EU institution that is directly elected by its citizens.
The call by the EU assembly comes as a special World Bank committee examines whether Wolfowitz abused his position or committed ethical lapses as it looks at the promotion of his girlfriend, Shaha Riza.
Wolfowitz, a former U.S. deputy defence secretary who helped plan the U.S. invasion of Iraq, has apologized for his handling of Riza's promotion and pledged to make changes to his management.
In Washington, the White House reiterated its support for Wolfowitz, despite the intensifying calls for his resignation.
Asked for a response to the EU lawmakers' resolution, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said: We continue to support President Wolfowitz.
"The World Bank board is engaged in a process and we understand that the process is continuing and we expect its assessment will include a thorough and respectful review of all of the relevant facts."
Earlier, Bush personally praised Wolfowitz for his efforts in leading the global fight against poverty during an event at the White House on malaria awareness, where the World Bank chief sat in the front row.
"I appreciate very much the fact that the World Bank has taken the lead in eradicating poverty in places like Africa. Paul Wolfowitz, thank you for your leadership of the World Bank," Bush said.
European countries, including Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and France -- all large aid givers for anti-poverty projects in the developing world -- have expressed concern that Wolfowitz's leadership is untenable and is damaging the credibility of the institution.
"By digging in his heels and refusing to resign as President of the World Bank, Wolfowitz is dragging the whole organization into disrepute and further undermining the credibility of its anti-corruption policy," said Caroline Lucas, a British member of the Greens.
"If he won't jump himself, he must be pushed."
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