Colombia says Ocampo World Bank candidacy not viable

BOGOTA, March 22 Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:03pm EDT

BOGOTA, March 22 (Reuters) - Colombia said on Thursday it does not see the candidacy of former finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo to head the World Bank as viable, throwing into question whether he will be nominated for the post as a Friday deadline loomed.

Brazil and South Africa are keen to tap Ocampo and Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as candidates to lead the World Bank, sources told Reuters on Wednesday, the first concerted challenge to the U.S. grip on the multilateral lending agency's top job.

South Africa called a news conference for Friday at which it will announce Okonjo-Iweala's candidacy for the World Bank's top job. Nominations for the World Bank presidency close at 6 p.m. EST (2200 GMT)

But Colombian Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry said Ocampo stood little chance of winning the post because another Colombian already heads the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank.

He said the Andean nation was focused on a bid at the International Labor Organization.

"The candidacy of (Colombia's Vice President) Angelino Garzon for the president of the International Labor Organization has a high probability of success," Echeverry told reporters.

"The Colombian government has to concentrate exclusively on a candidate that has possibilities of success, and so we should concentrate on the candidacy of the vice president," he added.

The Inter-American Development Bank is currently led by Luis Alberto Moreno, who is Colombian.

Brazil, which chairs a constituency of Latin American countries including Colombia on the World Bank Board, cannot nominate Ocampo without Colombia's backing.

A source with knowledge of the plans said Ocampo's nomination was still being discussed.

Ocampo was finance minister during the government of Colombian President Ernesto Samper and later became executive secretary for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the United Nations' regional economic body.

The United States has held the World Bank presidency since its founding after World War Two, while a European has always led its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund.

The United States has yet to publicly identify a nominee to succeed Robert Zoellick, who plans to step down when his term expires at the end of June. (Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Lesley Wroughton; writing by Brian Ellsworth; editing by Todd Eastham)

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