Mon, Mar 28, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Blair, cabinet clash over Bush's pick for head of World Bank

THE OBSERVER , LONDON

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has clashed with members of his own Cabinet in a bitter row over the nomination of the neo-conservative US deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, as president of the World Bank.

Britain's International Development Secretary Hilary Benn is said to be furious that Blair kept him in the dark over the nomination, which was announced by President George W. Bush two weeks ago. Benn has written to Blair outlining his frustrations.

Sources close to Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown describe him as "incandescent" over the nomination. Blair was aware of Bush's plans a month before they became public, and declined to tell either the chancellor, who is a key IMF figure, or Benn, a World Bank board member.

A Blair aide said the prime minister was "comfortable" with the architect of the Iraq war taking the helm of the world's most important poverty alleviation institution, which dishes out loans of US$20 billion each year.

European leaders are unlikely to block Wolfowitz's appointment if the British government supports him, but Europe's leaders are trying to negotiate for a European deputy to Wolfowitz, Pascal Lamy.

Wolfowitz has cited his experience as US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 1982 to 1986, and as ambassador to Indonesia during the Reagan administration.

But details are emerging of how he pandered to Indonesia's dictator, Suharto, who seized power in 1965-66 through the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people.

Rather than express pro-democracy arguments, Wolfowitz did little to stop the military's illegal occupation of East Timor, which resulted in more than 200,000 deaths. He also spent time helping to secure lucrative contracts for US business interests.

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