Saturday, May 19
Wolfowitz Out,, May 17, 2007

In its story announcing that World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz is resigning, The New York Tmes notes:

In a carefully negotiated statement, the board praised Mr. Wolfowitz for his two years of service at the bank, and especially for his work in arranging for debt relief and pressing for more assistance to poor countries, especially in Africa, and also combating corruption, which was Mr. Wolfowitz's signature issue.

Mr. Wolfowitz said he was grateful for the directors' decision and, referring to the bank's mission of helping the world's poor, added: "Now it is necessary to find a way to move forward. To do that I have concluded that it is in the best interests of those whom this institution serves for that mission to be carried forward under new leadership."

Words don't matter at this stage. Neither the Bank nor Wolfowitz can spin the scent of scandal from the finale of the Wolfowitz affair. The Bank's board may have accepted his claim that his actions were honorable in order to ease him out--ignoring that a special panel had concluded he broke the rules in arranging for a hefty salary boost for his girlfriend. But Wolfowitz's (forced) departure says more than any explanatory statement from the Bank or from him. Wolfowitz had to leave because of what he did. Still, under his contract, he's entitled to a year's salary of $375,000 and other benefits. If he wants to help the world's poor, perhaps he ought to donate that money to Oxfam.

Wolfowitz (Ieft) and Riza have been dating for years. According to Wolfowitz's lawyer, it was Riza who 'worked up the numbers' at the heart of the conflict-of-interest probe that threatens to topple the World Bank president.

By Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, May 3, 2007 (Web-exclusive commentary)

Only a few years ago, Shaha Riza was what is known in journalistic parlance as a flack.
She was a media relations person, in other words—and a fairly junior one—whose job it was to reach out to reporters like me so that we would write about various World Bank activities. As recently as mid-2004, Riza was faxing and e-mailing PR releases to reporters around town, requesting that we contact her about exciting new Bank initiatives like a “$38 million investment loan to help the Government of Jordan develop efficient transport and logistics services,” or the “$359 million in loans for two projects aimed at helping the government of Iran improve housing conditions for poor and middle-income urban neighborhoods as well as expand access to clean water and coverage of sanitation services.”

At the bottom of each missive she listed her number (202 458 1592) and her e-mail ( Guess what? Many of us never called.

Now we’re calling and calling, and Shaha Riza just won’t pick up. The Libyan native has been quietly dating Paul Wolfowitz since at least 2000, says a longtime friend of the couple who would only speak about them anonymously.

The two shared not just a mutual attraction but also a passionate cause: transforming the Arab world, ousting Saddam, and promoting democracy and rights for women. In recent weeks, this little-known relationship has exploded into public view. It is at the center of a titanic scandal that has pitted Wolfowitz, Riza and their high-powered Washington lawyers, Bob Bennett (for him) and Victoria Toensing (for her) against many European governments who serve on the Bank’s board.

The Europeans have made their distaste for Wolfowitz—and their eagerness to see him go—very well known, and what began as minor brush fire that Wolfowitz tried to sweep aside is now engulfing him.

The immediate issue is whether Wolfowitz committed an ethical breach by setting Riza up in a high-paying job outside the bank—as he admits he did—when he took over the presidency in 2005.

But what’s really going on, says Bennett, is a power play by Europeans to take control of the bank, and to rid themselves once and for all of a top Bush administration hawk whom they hold responsible for the Iraq War.
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