US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was not in discussions over the top job at the World Bank and that she was not pursing the post. Clinton is in Zambia as part of a five-day Africa trip that is being overshadowed by news that she had expressed interest in moving to head the World Bank.
I have had no discussions with anyone, I have evidenced no interest to anyone and I am not pursuing that position, Clinton told reporters.
According to sources close to Clinton and the Obama administration, she expressed interest in moving to the World Bank when current World Bank President Robert Zoellick's term ends in mid-2012.
Both the White House and State Department on Thursday denied the report, which cited three sources familiar with the discussions. Told of the official denials, the sources said the story remains accurate.
Revelations about Clinton as a potential Bank nominee are sensitive because they come during a period of significant foreign policy challenges for the Obama administration.
It also infuriates emerging market economies, which are clamouring for greater influence in global institutions and see discussions such as these as proof that the jobs are determined in advance.
One source said the report of Clinton's interest had come at a difficult time for the administration, which had just started to consider the issue of who should succeed Zoellick. Clinton's name was discussed as part of a strategy still under development, according to a source who had knowledge of the talks.
Zoellick has not revealed his future plans or whether he has an interest in a second term at the bank, which provides billions of dollars in loans and grants to developing countries.
Under normal circumstances, the names of potential candidates for the World Bank would surface only months before the post become vacant. But the timing of the discussions is not unusual this year given the sudden opening of the top job at the bank's sister institution, the IMF.
Since World War II and by tradition, the World Bank has always been headed by a US citizen and the IMF by a European.