AIDC BLOG: `Passionate' Wolfowitz Backed by Anwar for World Bank

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

`Passionate' Wolfowitz Backed by Anwar for World Bank

March 24 (Bloomberg) -- Paul Wolfowitz, President George W. Bush's nominee to lead the World Bank, won backing for his candidacy from Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's former deputy premier and one of Asia's most prominent Muslim politicians.

``I certainly would welcome him to the bank,'' Anwar, 57, said in an interview in Hong Kong on March 18. ``He passionately believes in freedom and understands the issues of poverty, environment degradation, living conditions and health issues which (are) very much a World Bank agenda.''

Anwar's backing could bolster support for Wolfowitz, whose candidacy was questioned by European governments and aid groups concerned by his support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Anwar, a former student activist who championed efforts to fight poverty and rose to be Malaysia's finance minister, won expressions of support from the European Union and groups such as Amnesty International when he was imprisoned on corruption and sodomy charges.

Wolfowitz, a 61-year-old former ambassador to Indonesia, was one of the first people to congratulate Anwar after the latter's release from prison in September, when a court overturned the sodomy conviction. Wolfowitz traveled to Germany to visit Anwar, who was recuperating from spinal surgery, and the two also met in Washington earlier this month.

``They've a long history of friendship,'' said Azmin Ali, Anwar's former private secretary and vice president of Keadilan, the opposition party run by Anwar's wife. ``Although they're friends they argue on many issues, and on certain issues agree to disagree. They think the best approach is an open dialogue.''

When Anwar was sacked from the government and jailed in 1999, Wolfowitz wrote to Malaysia's then premier, Mahathir Mohamad, calling for his release.


As deputy secretary of defense since 2001, Wolfowitz was an architect of the war with Iraq that tested U.S. relations with countries such as Russia, France and Germany, and Asian nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia, which didn't want military action unless there was an explicit mandate from the United Nations.

``I don't share Wolfowitz's views on the Iraq war and I've made it clear the best the Americans can do is to withdraw their forces from Iraq,'' Anwar said. ``But I don't believe that that war was directed against the Muslims or the Iraqi people.''

Italy and the Netherlands have said they will support Wolfowitz's nomination, and Germany has said it won't try to prevent his appointment.

``Enthusiasm in Europe will be muted,'' German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said today. ``But Germany will behave very constructively, and the appointment of Mr. Wolfowitz won't be blocked by Germany. My impression is: also not by other European countries.''

`Believe in the Mission'

Wolfowitz has cited his time in Indonesia and a seven-year stint as dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University as providing the experience needed to run the World Bank, the largest financier of projects in developing nations.

``People in Indonesia have a different view of me'' from that of the critics, Wolfowitz said in an interview on March 18. ``I wouldn't be taking on this huge responsibility if I didn't believe in the mission. The more people I meet with, the more will understand.''

`Engage and Listen'

Bush nominated him for the position, traditionally held by an American, last week. By convention, the U.S. makes the nomination for World Bank president, and its candidates have never been rejected. In turn, Europe picks the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, although its preferred choice was forced to withdraw in 2000 after President Bill Clinton's administration refused support.

Wolfowitz needs the support of 85 percent of the World Bank's 24-member executive board to replace President James Wolfensohn, who is due to retire at the end of May. European countries hold a combined 30 percent voting stake on the board, which meets on March 31, compared with the U.S.'s 17 percent.

There has been ``the perception that he had ignored the importance of dialogue,'' Anwar said. ``I haven't experienced this with Paul. He comes across as a person who's ready to engage and listen.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur at at