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No Names Yet For Wolfowitz Successor: Kimmitt

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is consulting European colleagues on a new World Bank chief but is not shopping specific names, according to his top aide who said on Saturday he was "flattered" to hear himself speculated about as a candidate.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt, who stood in for Paulson at a G8 finance ministers meeting, hastily added that he already has a job but seemed to enjoy the attention his name has drawn as one on a list of potential candidates to take over from Paul Wolfowitz, who quit this week under fire.

"I'm flattered to be associated with an institution like the World Bank," Kimmitt said.

"I have a day job as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. I'm going to continue to do that as best I can," he added at a press conference where he was peppered with questions on whether he wanted the job and whether it was time to scrap a 60-year-old convention of having an American head the global lender.

"The custom and tradition of an American serving as head of the World Bank has served the world well," Kimmitt said. "We don't see any reason why that should change and indeed I believe it remains important that the bank continue to be run by an American."

Earlier, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck who chaired the Group of Eight finance ministers meeting that Paulson skipped effectively endorsed Washington's right to choose the World bank leader, just as Europe selects the head of sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.

"The (German) federal government continues to support the notion that the Americans have the right of first suggestion and nomination," Steinbrueck said in response to a question.

Kimmitt is just one on a list of possible candidates that includes Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, among others.

While it is known that the Bush administration wants a successor named quickly who will be appealing for Europeans who effectively forced Wolfowitz out, Kimmitt insisted it was premature yet to think that Paulson has a candidate in mind.

"He is not at this time talking names of people but how best to run the process to end up with the best person to run this important institution," he said.

Wolfowitz was controversial from the start because of his neoconservative past and role as a principal architect of the U.S. decision to enter the increasingly unpopular war with Iraq.

Kimmitt said he told finance ministers from the G8 -- the U.S., Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia -- that the U.S. economy should start to grow more rapidly as a battered housing sector recovers.

"We see evidence that housing is stabilizing and that rising delinquencies in the subprime mortgage market have not spread more generally," Kimmitt said, referring to a spate of companies that specialize in making mortgage loans to people with poor credit histories that have been driven out of business by soaring foreclosures and losses.

The meeting, at a lakeside resort near Potsdam was to set an agenda for a summit of political leaders on June 6-8, which will take place in the German Baltic coast resort of Heiligendamm.

The only specific initiative from the Potsdam meeting that Kimmitt cited was agreement on an action plan to help emerging-market countries develop bond markets needed to generate the capital they need to invest for expansion.

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