White House Names Robert Zoellick to Lead World Bank

President Bush has chosen Robert Zoellick, a one-time U.S. trade representative and former No. 2 official at the State Department, to lead the World Bank, the president announced Wednesday.

Robert Zoellick.
Evan Vucci
Robert Zoellick.

Bush said Zoellick is qualified to help fulfill the mission of the World Bank, which is charged with raising living standards in the globe's poorest nations. Bush pointed out that about 1 billion people around the world live on less than $1 a day.

"The United States has a moral and national interest in helping poor and struggling countries transform themselves into free and hopeful societies," Bush said.

The United States is the World Bank's largest donor nation.

Zoellick named poor health care, weak agricultural infrastructure, corruption, discrimination against women, and obstructions to free markets as among major impediments to world growth.

Moving Beyond Wolfowitz

Zoellick will succeed Paul Wolfowitz, who steps down June 30 after findings by a special bank panel that he broke bank rules when he arranged a hefty compensation package in 2005 for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a bank employee. The controversy led to calls from Europeans, the bank's staff, aid groups, Democratic politicians and others for Wolfowitz to step down.

During the press conference announcing Zoellick's appointment, Bush called Wolfowitz an "able public servant" and a "man of character and integrity."

Zoellick's selection has received positive reaction from other nations, and the White House expects him to be accepted by the World Bank executive board, a senior administration official said this week. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because Bush had not yet announced Zoellick's selection.