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Bank nominee says discord must end

Institution shaken over Wolfowitz

President Bush chose Robert Zoellick, 53, yesterday to run the World Bank, which seeks to fight poverty. If approved by the 24-member board, Zoellick will bring years of experience in foreign and economic policy. (Roger L. Wollenberg/Pool)

WASHINGTON -- Robert Zoellick has dealt with the Cold War, the killing in Darfur, China's rise as an economic colossus. His next challenge: to restore confidence at the badly shaken World Bank.

"We need to put yesterday's discord behind us and to focus on the future together," Zoellick declared after President Bush chose him yesterday to run the poverty-fighting institution and heal wounds left behind by Paul Wolfowitz, outgoing president.

"I believe that the World Bank's best days are still to come," said Zoellick, now an executive at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs.

If approved by the World Bank's 24-member board, Zoellick, 53, will also bring to the institution years of experience in the foreign and economic policy arenas under three Republican presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan.

Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization, praised his "ability as a strategist, as one who can broker compromise and as one who has profound interests in the concerns of developing countries." As trade chief for the European Union, Lamy went head-to-head with Zoellick when he was US trade representative over steel, aid to plane makers Boeing Co. and Airbus, and hormone-treated beef.

"I think we often disagreed, but that was part of our business," said Luiz Felipe de Seixas Corrêa, the Brazilian ambassador who led his country's successful WTO challenge of the US cotton subsidy program. "I can say he's superbly qualified for the World Bank job."

The selection of Zoellick appeared far less controversial than when Bush chose Wolfowitz, then the number two official at the Pentagon. His role in the Iraq war upset Europeans and others.

Wolfowitz had a stormy two-year tenure at the bank, culminating in his resignation -- effective June 30. He was essentially forced to leave after a special bank panel found he broke bank rules when he arranged a hefty compensation package in 2005 for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a bank employee. The controversy caused a staff revolt and strained US relations with Europeans.

Zoellick will need to regain trust, rebuild credibility, and mend frayed relations inside the institution as well as with its member countries around the world. He will also need to persuade countries to contribute nearly $30 billion over the next few years to fund a centerpiece bank program that provides interest-free loans to the world's poorest countries.

"We need to approach this task with humility and creative minds," Zoellick said. He said he planned to meet soon with the bank's contributors, borrowers, and others, to listen to their perspectives on how the institution can best fulfill its purpose.

In tapping Zoellick, Bush picked a veteran of politics both inside the Beltway and on the international stage. He is known for pulling facts and figures off the top of his head. He also has a reputation for being a demanding boss.

"Bob Zoellick brings a wealth of experience and energy to this task," Bush said. "Over the past three decades, he's held important posts in government, business, and higher education.

"In short, it would probably be easier to list all the jobs Bob hasn't had," the president joked.

Zoellick announced last June that he was leaving his post as deputy secretary of state to go to Goldman Sachs and work to develop investment markets around the world.

As the State Department's number two diplomat, Zoellick brokered peace talks in Darfur and dealt with many thorny issues involving the complex relationship between the United States and China.

"My experience working with him on the subject of Darfur tells me that I know that he cares about that issue, which is very important to the American people," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat . "He's sensitive to the need to alleviate poverty there, to resolve conflict in a peaceful way. . . . I have been impressed by what he has done."

When he was Bush's top trade envoy, Zoellick played a key role in negotiations to bring China into the World Trade Organization. He forged free trade deals between the United States and other countries, including Singapore, Chile, Australia, and Morocco.