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World Bank president leaving next JuneWorld Bank President Robert Zoellick tells board he will step down June 30
WASHINGTON (AP) ' World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Wednesday he is stepping down, raising the possibility that a non-American might be chosen for the first time to head the 187-nation lending organization.
Zoellick, 58, informed the board he will leave June 30 at the end of a five-year term, during which he led the bank's response to the global financial crisis.
The board now begins looking for a new president under guidelines directors adopted in 2011 that call for an "open, merit-based and transparent selection" process.
That suggests a break from the informal agreement that dates to the bank's founding almost 68 years ago under which the bank's president is an American and the head of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, is a European.
There is no guarantee that a non-American will be chosen to again head the bank even though China is now the world's second largest economy, and other countries with growing economic clout have been exerting pressure for a change in the U.S.-European arrangement.
The IMF was supposed to follow the same open selection guidelines when it searched for a new managing director last year, but wound up again choosing a European, former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries.
As Zoellick's term drew to a close, Americans mentioned as possibilities to succeed him included Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Clinton has said she was not interested in the job.
When Clinton was asked last June about speculation she might be nominated for the job, she said: "I do not have any interest and am not pursuing that position."
Clinton's name has continued to circulate, however. She has repeatedly said she has no plans to stay on as secretary of state past the end of President Barack Obama's first term.
Zoellick, a Republican appointed by former President George W. Bush, has a good relationship with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other members of Obama's administration. But analysts who follow the bank and some senior members of its staff said they were not surprised he decided to leave.
His plans after leaving were unclear. He could return to the private sector, where he was once a senior adviser at Wall Street's Goldman Sachs. He certainly could count on a high-ranking post if Republicans win the November elections, having served as deputy secretary of state and U.S. trade representative in the Bush administration.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said he did not know if Obama had spoken with Zoellick.
He told reporters traveling with Obama aboard Air Force One, "I do not have any information for you on possible successors."
Asked about the Clinton and Summers reports, he said, "there has been much speculation but I'm not going to confirm any of it."
Zoellick said he will stay focused on being bank president until June 30 and will continue to drive policies and programs at a heightened tempo. For example, later this month the bank said he would unveil a groundbreaking study on how China can continue to maintain a strong economy as it matures.
Under Zoellick's leadership, the bank provided more than $247 billion to help developing countries boost growth and overcome poverty.
Zoellick said he was "pleased that when the world needed the bank to step up, our shareholders responded with expanded resources and support for key reforms that made us quicker, more effective and more open."
He said the bank was now in a strong position and ready for new challenges "so it is a natural time for me to move on and support new leadership."
Associated Press writers Anne Gearan and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.
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