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Iraq legacy dogged Wolfowitz at World Bank

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Paul Wolfowitz, whose resignation was announced on Thursday, took over the World Bank in mid-2005 carrying a legacy as an architect of the Iraq war that never ceased to trouble his critics inside and outside the poverty-fighting institution.

Controversial though he was as successor to James Wolfensohn, especially among European countries that had opposed the Iraq war, the Bush administration engineered his move from the Pentagon to the World Bank presidency without dissent.

Once there, he quickly reached out to poor African nations, where he encountered little criticism over Iraq, and pushed a deal to cancel the debts of highly indebted poor countries.

Soon after, he moved with characteristic zeal to launch a controversial anti-corruption campaign at the bank where he again clashed with European governments, who worried the effort could punish the poor by slowing the flow of aid.

Wolfowitz, however, prevailed and offered no apologies for the bruising campaign, which drew criticism both within and outside the bank.

But just weeks after securing a deal on anti-corruption, the former Pentagon deputy ran into a storm last month over charges of preferential treatment in his handling of a promotion and pay rise for his companion and bank employee Shaha Riza.

Determined to stay in the job and backed by the White House, he was dealt what turned out to be a fatal blow by a bank panel’s finding that he had broken World Bank ethics rule and had “cast himself in opposition to the established rules of the institution.”

Some of the stiffest opposition to Wolfowitz came from inside the bank, where staff association head Alison Cave said his actions had damaged the bank’s reputation and urged its 24-nation board to take action against him.

“How can we go out and tell governments what to do ... saying one thing and doing another,” Cave asked.

Animosity toward Wolfowitz among bank staff dates to his decision to bring in top aides from the Pentagon and White House and sideline several career bank staffers. It left an impression that he relied only on his own coterie for advice.

MORE THAN A NEOCONSERVATIVE

Throughout his tenure, Wolfowitz sought to convince outsiders that he was more than the “neoconservative’s neoconservative,” as he was sometimes portrayed, and that his heart was truly in fighting poverty.

“I’m about a lot more than military issues, about a lot more than just Iraq, and a good deal that has been written about me is an inaccurate caricature,” he told Reuters in 2005.

Nodding to the divisiveness that has marked his career, Wolfowitz last week protested that he was being judged not for his performance at the World Bank but for his past affiliation with the Bush administration and the unpopular Iraq war.

“For those people who disagree with the things that they associate me with in my previous job -- I’m not in my previous job,” he said. “I’m not working for the U.S. government.”

Wolfowitz brought a broad portfolio of experience to the World Bank. He was deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005, a former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia and served in the administration of Bush’s father during the 1991 Gulf War.

In October 2003, during a visit to Baghdad, the hotel he was staying in was hit by several rockets in an attack that killed a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and hurt 17 others.

Wolfowitz escaped unharmed.

Iraq has dogged his career. He was criticized for telling Congress shortly after the war began that Iraq’s oil revenues would pay for it. “We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

But the war has cost hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of lost lives with no end in sight.

Wolfowitz has friends in high places, including Vice President Dick Cheney, whom he served as under-secretary of defense from 1989 to 1993 when Cheney was defense secretary in President George H.W. Bush’s cabinet.

Wolfowitz served as ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1989 after a stint as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Paul Dundes Wolfowitz was born in New York on December 22, 1943, and graduated from Cornell. He received master’s and doctorate degrees in political science and economics from the University of Chicago.

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