World Bank Nominee Seeks Reconciliation

WASHINGTON -- Robert Zoellick has dealt with the Cold War, the killing in Darfur, and China's rise as an economic colossus. His next challenge will be restoring 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 U.S. President George W. Bush chose him Wednesday to run the poverty-fighting institution and heal wounds left behind by the outgoing president, Paul Wolfowitz.

"I believe that the World Bank's best days are still to come," said Zoellick, now a vice chairman at 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 U.S. presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan.

World Trade Organization director general Pascal Lamy 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."

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

In a brief statement, the bank's board acknowledged Zoellick's nomination and said it would meet with him. At the same time, it left the impression that it would not blindly ratify Bush's choice. Other nominations from the bank's executive directors will be accepted until June 15, the board said.

In some ways, the selection of Zoellick appeared far less controversial than when Bush chose Wolfowitz, then the Pentagon's No. 2 official. 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 forced to leave after a special bank panel found he broke bank rules in arranging a hefty compensation package in 2005 for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a bank employee.

Zoellick will need to regain trust, rebuild credibility and mend frayed relations inside the institution.