Sunday, July 31, 2005

Former European Central Bank Chief Dies

Former European Central Bank Chief Dies

PARIS - Wim Duisenberg, the former European Central Bank chief who helped create the euro currency, was found dead Sunday in his swimming pool in southeastern France, officials said. He was 70.

Police did not give a cause for Duisenberg's death, but rescue teams and police said Duisenberg was found unconscious in the swimming pool at his home in the town of Faucon and could not be resuscitated.

Duisenberg was the first head of the ECB, serving from 1998 to 2003. Having shepherded the euro through its introduction in 1999, he became known as the father of the 12-nation European common currency.

"With his calm manner, he established people's basic trust in the euro," German Finance Minister Hans Eichel told The Associated Press in Berlin. "We will remember his personality and what he achieved."

Tall and stoop-shouldered, with a large mane of white hair, Duisenberg sometimes appeared more of a professor than a heavyweight policy-maker. A chain-smoking golf lover, he kept a decidedly low profile as the ECB chief but was a major figurehead bearing overall responsibility for price stability in the euro zone of more than 300 million people.

During his tenure at the bank, Duisenberg was known for his cautious monetary policy and was eager to defend the euro through its early years.

He sometimes frustrated financial markets and politicians by sticking to the bank's inflation-fighting stance, keeping rates higher than some investors and officials would have liked.

"I hear, but I don't listen" to such pleas, was one of his typically blunt responses. Duisenberg repeatedly said it was up to European governments to pursue structural reforms — such as loosening rigid rules on hiring and firing — if they wanted more growth.

Higher rates are the bank's main tool to fight inflation, but they can crimp economic growth. The bank's tight policy helped keep the euro a strong, stable currency even as it is criticized as a drag on growth.

One of Duisenberg's biggest achievements was the smooth introduction of euro notes and coins in early 2002. Twelve national currencies were removed from circulation by banks and shops and replaced with the new money in a huge logistical effort that defied predictions of long lines and consumer confusion.

Duisenberg, who unabashedly sought to model the ECB on the U.S.
Federal Reserve Bank, was at times referred to as "Europe's Greenspan" — a reference to Fed chief
Alan Greenspan.

His selection as ECB chief was championed by Germany — Europe's biggest economy — but faced controversy when France proposed its central banker, Jean-Claude Trichet, as a rival candidate. Trichet took over in 2003.

Trichet, in a statement, called Duisenberg's death a "terrible loss," and credited him with a decisive role in setting up EU monetary institutions, overseeing the euro launch and building confidence in the currency.

Willem Frederik Duisenberg was born July 9, 1935, in the Dutch city of Heerenven. He became a member of the Dutch Labor party, and received a doctorate in economics from Groningen University, writing his dissertation on the economic consequences of disarmament.

Duisenberg also served as finance minister and central bank chief in the Netherlands, and once ran the European Monetary Institute — an ECB predecessor — in Frankfurt, Germany.

He is survived by his wife, Gretta Duisenberg-Bedier de Prairie, and two adult sons.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Sources: Bush to Appoint Bolton on Recess

President Bush intends to announce next week that he is going around Congress to install embattled nominee John Bolton as the U.S. ambassador to the
United Nations, senior administration officials said Friday.

Bush has the power to fill vacancies without Senate approval while Congress is in recess. Under the Constitution, a recess appointment during the lawmakers' August break would last until the next session of Congress, which begins in January 2007.

An end run around the Senate confirmation process would certainly annoy senators — particularly Democrats — at a time when Bush's nomination of John Roberts to serve on the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. It also could hamper Bolton at the United Nations, by sending him there as a short-timer without the Senate's backing.

"There's just too much unanswered about Bolton and I think the president would make a truly serious mistake if he makes a recess appointment," Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record) of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview.

Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the president had not made the announcement and Congress wasn't yet in recess, said Bush planned to exercise that authority before he leaves Washington on Tuesday for his ranch. The House recessed on Thursday and the Senate's break was scheduled to begin later Friday.

Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Scott McClellan gave the strongest indication yet that Bush planned to do so, noting that the U.N. General Assembly has its annual meeting in mid-September.

"It's important that we get our permanent representative in place," he said. "This is a critical time and it's important to continue moving forward on comprehensive reform."

Bush counselor Dan Bartlett said the president had not made a decision on whether to make a recess appointment.

"He retains that right to do, but he will continue to work with the Senate as long as he can," Barlett said. "But he has not made a decision."

Bolton's nomination, announced in March by the president, was controversial from the start and has been stalled in the Senate by Democrats.

Critics say Bolton, who has been accused of mistreating subordinates and has been openly skeptical about the United Nations, would be ill-suited to the sensitive diplomatic task at the world body. The White House says the former undersecretary of state for arms control, who has long been one of Bush's most conservative foreign policy advisers, is exactly the man to whip the United Nations into shape.

This week, critics raised a fresh concern, saying Bolton had neglected to tell Congress he had been interviewed in a government investigation into faulty prewar intelligence on

The State Department said Thursday that Bolton was interviewed in 2003 by the department inspector general. The office was conducting a joint investigation with the
CIA into allegations that Iraq attempted to buy nuclear materials from Niger. Bolton had earlier submitted a questionnaire to the Senate in which he had said he had not testified to a grand jury or been interviewed by investigators in any inquiry over the past five years.

Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee (news, bio, voting record) said he would vote against Bolton — if given the chance — and would oppose a recess appointment if it is accurate that Bolton's form was originally incorrect. "Any intimidation of the facts, or suppression of information getting to the public which led us to the war, absolutely should preclude him from a recess appointment," said Chafee, of Rhode Island.

Also Friday, 35 Democratic senators and one independent, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, sent a letter to Bush urging against a recess appointment. "Sending someone to the United Nations who has not been confirmed by the United States Senate and now who has admitted to not being truthful on a document so important that it requires a sworn affidavit is going to set our efforts back in many ways," the letter said.