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World Bank Head Apologizes Over Girlfriend's Promotion

Paul Wolfowitz (file photo) (AFP) April 13, 2007 -- The head of the World Bank has said he is sorry for the way he handled a promotion and pay increase for a staff member who is his girlfriend.

Paul Wolfowitz said he had erred in helping Shaha Riza get transferred to a high-paying job at the U.S. State Department two years ago.

"I made a mistake for which I am sorry," he said. "But let me also ask for some understanding. Not only was this a painful personal dilemma, but I had to deal with it when I was new to this institution and I was trying to navigate in uncharted waters."

Riza was moved to avoid a conflict of interest after Wolfowitz's appointment in 2005.

But while still on the World Bank payroll, she was then promoted and ended up with an employment package worth nearly $200,000 -- higher than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's earnings.

The bank's board of directors says it will decide soon about how to proceed. In a statement, the board says it found Wolfowitz signed off on a promotion and salary increase for Riza without a review by an ethics committee or the board's chairman.

The bank's staff association is calling on Wolfowitz to resign.

The scandal threatens to overshadow the April 14-15 spring meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington.

(AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)