World Bank delays Wolfowitz decision

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World Bank directors have agreed to give the institution's president Paul Wolfowitz more time to defend himself over allegations that he abused his position.

Mr Wolfowitz had been due to respond to a draft report over his role in the promotion of his partner Shaha Riza, but the bank's board said yesterday that it had agreed to his request for additional time to comment on its findings.

Former leading Pentagon official Mr Wolfowitz has now been given until tomorrow to submit his response to the report.

The World Bank's 24-member board also said that he had been given the opportunity to meet with executive directors and "communicate his views in person" on May 15th, when a final decision about his future will be decided.

A number of European countries, aid groups and bank staff have demanded that Mr Wolfowitz resign as president of the Washington-based international organisation over the scandal surrounding the promotion of Ms Riza.

Mr Wolfowitz moved his partner from her World Bank job when he took over the stewardship of the institution in June 2005 in order to avoid a conflict of interest, but it subsequently emerged that her new attachment to the US state department involved a pay rise and compensation package.

Amid fears that the scandal could lead to a divisive vote by the World Bank's board to dismiss Mr Wolfowitz, senior Democrats, including senate majority leader Harry Reid, have written to US president George Bush urging him to step in and end the "historic crisis" which they believe is undermining both their country and the international finance institution.

Responding to the plea White House press chief Tony Snow told reporters yesterday that the Bush administration supported Mr Wolfowitz "fully".

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