World and Nation

World Bank Head Seeks Support To Stop Criticism Over Leadership

Paul D. Wolfowitz sought Wednesday to quell discontent over his leadership of the World Bank by promising top aides that he would change his management style, but he suffered a blow when one of those aides urged him to resign, bank officials said.

The officials said that at a meeting with about 30 vice presidents of the bank, Wolfowitz asked for suggestions on how he could restore faith in his management after a furor over charges of favoritism toward his companion in 2005.

He has also been criticized by bank employees for being insular and overly reliant on a handful of aides. According to several bank officials who talked to people who were at the meeting, one of Wolfowitz's two senior deputies in charge of running the bank, Graeme Wheeler, a former senior Finance Ministry official from New Zealand, said Wolfowitz needed to step down as president for the good of the bank.

"The fact that Graeme would ask him to resign has been all over the bank today," one official said. "He is an unassuming guy who is very well respected here."

Wheeler, appointed managing director last year by Wolfowitz, did not return telephone calls or respond to an e-mail message seeking comment.

The session with Wolfowitz and his vice presidents was the first such meeting since the world's finance ministers were in town last weekend. It was seen within the bank as reflecting his determination to remain in his job, as he vowed to do on Sunday, despite a rebuke from the bank's most powerful oversight committee, which issued a statement of "great concern" about his leadership.

Bank officials said that while Wolfowitz was not specific about what the management changes would be, he did say that resigning would not be good for the bank. In the meeting with the vice presidents on Wednesday and in separate talks with groups of them on Tuesday, Wolfowitz solicited ideas on "the way forward," they said.

Officials said the vice presidents left the second meeting with a mandate to discuss Wolfowitz's appeal for suggestions and Wheeler's call for his resignation with their staffs.

The bank's 24-member executive board also scheduled a meeting for Thursday to discuss the situation. Officials close to the board said they did not expect any specific actions to be taken.

They said the board was still trying to decide whether to reprimand Wolfowitz or to make some other assessment of his role in the transfer and promotion of his companion, Shaha Ali Riza, in 2005, when he came to the bank, and the large raises she got.

Bank officials said the board would also discuss disclosures about the conduct of Rizain taking a monthlong leave in 2003 to go to Iraq under the auspices of a private Defense Department contractor.

Bank officials said Riza did not clear the trip with top bank officers, and some said it was contrary to bank regulations for her to travel to Iraq at a time when it was inappropriate for the bank to have dealings with the American-led military occupation.