WASHINGTON - US lawmakers Friday pressed President Barack Obama to nominate economist Jeffrey Sachs as the next World Bank president with the White House apparently scrambling to pick a candidate ahead of next week's deadline.
In a letter to Obama, 27 fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives said that Sachs, whose self-declared candidacy has drawn a number of endorsements from around the world, has the leadership skills for the job.
"When the member nations of the World Bank meet this spring to select the organization's next president, we strongly encourage you to nominate Professor Jeffrey Sachs," the lawmakers said in the letter.
"We believe that Professor Sachs has the experience, expertise, and bold vision for the future needed to lead the World Bank at this critical moment in history."
Development expert Sachs, 57, is the director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals.
In early March he announced his bid to succeed World Bank president Robert Zoellick, who is stepping down when his term ends in June.
In a telephone interview, Sachs said he already has been nominated by at least one of the countries that has already announced support for him.
After having worked for decades in poverty alleviation projects around the world, Sachs has garnered official letters of support from Bhutan, East Timor, Haiti, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia and Namibia.
"It's been confirmed to me that my name has been put officially into nomination by one or more of the governments that has publicly endorsed my candidacy," he said Friday.
The World Bank declined to comment on his claim, noting the Board had stipulated that a short list of up to three candidates would be released only after considering names submitted by the March 23 deadline.
"Finding the graceful way forward, forging the networks that can create global change, should be the bank's greatest role," Sachs said in announcing his candidacy on March 2. "I'll stand on my record of helping to create those networks."
Significantly, his maverick move has not been endorsed by the United States, which has yet to name a candidate of its own.
That could be crucial to his candidacy: under a tacit agreement dating back to the founding of the institution, the US has always chosen the World Bank head - and it has always been an American - while Europe names a European chief of the International Monetary Fund.
But emerging economies have loudly protested that status quo, demanding greater representation at the two Washington-based institutions.
Meanwhile, the White House's choice remains a mystery, even though Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on February 15 that he was in favor of an "expeditious process."
According to a person close to the World Bank, the Obama administration is mired in an "impasse" because there are problems with each of the three persons on its shortlist: Senator John Kerry, UN ambassador Susan Rice and Harvard University economics professor and former World Bank chief economist Larry Summers.
"The White House is keen to keep John Kerry in the Senate for political reasons," the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, they said, "Susan Rice is a top contender to succeed Hillary Clinton at the State Department and Larry Summers has not enough support from the international partners of the US.
"Apparently, he cannot gain the backing of all Group of Seven countries," the person said, adding "some clearly are not comfortable" with his candidacy.
The White House is likely to announce a new name "since Summers doesn't look like a candidate who will have strong support."
The World Bank has said it plans to fill the post by the start of its spring meetings with the IMF on April 20.