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    Middle East
     May 23, 2007
Wolfowitz has final word on Iraq
By Emad Mekay

WASHINGTON - The World Bank has appointed a new country manager for Iraq despite security and corruption concerns, according to a leaked document. The news emerged just days after outgoing World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz promised not make any major new appointments at the institution.

Anticipating that Iraq could eventually assume a more prominent role at the bank, its board has periodically issued official statements - a highly unusual measure - telling Wolfowitz that it

wanted to be updated on any major plans for Iraq.

The Government Accountability Project (GAP), a Washington-based watchdog group, released an e-mail it says it obtained from sources inside the bank showing Daniela Gressani, vice president for the Middle East and North Africa region, making the announcement.

"I am pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Simon Stolp as country manager, Iraq," said Gressani in her e-mail, a copy of which was seen by Inter Press Service (IPS).

A World Bank official in the Middle East department who wished to remain unidentified confirmed the news to IPS.

Stolp, an Australia national, will manage the day-to-day affairs of the bank in Iraq, monitor the bank's lending portfolio there and manage the bank's office and resident staff. His appointment was effective as of Monday, Gressani said in her e-mail. Gressani did not return telephone calls from IPS for comment.

The World Bank has not had a major presence inside Iraq since a bombing on August 19, 2003, claimed the lives of bank staffer Alya Sousa and 21 United Nations employees at the UN headquarters in Baghdad. Since then, the bank's operational work in Iraq has relied on regular meetings with Iraqis outside their country and use of the bank's videoconferencing facilities in Baghdad.

The World Bank runs its operation through its interim office for Iraq, which is based in Amman, Jordan. The office employs Iraqis for operations inside their country.

The new appointment, which had not been formally announced by the bank at this writing, appears to confirm what many analysts have long suspected about Wolfowitz' relentless attempts to move the bank back into Iraq - and to boost US policy there - despite internal opposition and the continuing high security risk.

Although he has served for the past two years as president of the bank, Wolfowitz is best known in many circles for his role as a primary architect of the US invasion of the Arab country and as a staunch neo-conservative ideologue promoting US military interventionist policies, especially in the Middle East.

In February, IPS reported that Wolfowitz had been secretly negotiating a contract with a new resident director in Iraq, despite some objections from staff and the board of directors.

The same month, the bank, still under Wolfowitz's management, also sought to quell news that a local staff member had been injured in Iraq, apparently for fear that the report might derail Wolfowitz' bid to recruit a new country manager for Iraq.

Although Wolfowitz announced his resignation last Friday, the new development indicates that he is still attempting to steer the course of the institution.

Through a series of documents leaked from inside the bank, GAP helped disclose the favoritism scandal involving Wolfowitz' longtime girlfriend and colleague Shaha Riza that eventually led to his ouster. The group noted in a statement on Monday that the new Iraq appointment contradicts a statement by Wolfowitz not to make any key appointments before his scheduled June 30 departure.

"The timing of this appointment is surprising. Although Paul Wolfowitz did not explicitly say he would 'recuse' himself from ongoing personnel decisions at this level, he strongly implied that he would do so," GAP said in a statement.

In a May 18 statement before the bank's board looking into his misconduct, Wolfowitz said: "I believe all country-manager and director personnel have been completed for the spring, so I have no expectation of being involved in these or any other personnel actions."

The appointment likely means the bank will release new loans to Iraq, despite the deteriorating security situation and recent disclosures of massive corruption in reconstruction efforts.

When Wolfowitz first came to preside over the World Bank, an international development agency, in June 2005, there was an outcry at the board and among some staff because of his close association with planning the Iraq war, which has turned into a major humanitarian fiasco.

Senior staff and some board members expressed fears that Wolfowitz' right-wing ideological leanings would push the bank toward more involvement in the controversial US occupation of Iraq.

But for the past year and a half, Wolfowitz has kept a relatively low profile on the issue and tried publicly to tone down his ideological convictions.

(Inter Press Service)

Wolfowitz walks, leaving pressing problems (May 19, '07)

Wolfowitz postings went to war backers (Apr 17, '07)


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