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Jeffrey Sachs seeks World Bank's top job

Economist Jeffrey Sachs threw his hat into the ring to become the next president of the World Bank Friday, saying it needs a development expert like himself rather than a politician or Wall Street banker.

Sachs was the first high-profile American to declare interest in the job, after current president Robert Zoellick announced two weeks ago that he was would step down on June 30, at the end of his five-year term.

"My quest to help end poverty has taken me to more than 125 countries, from mega-city capitals to mountaintop villages, from rain forest settlements to nomadic desert camps," Sachs wrote in the Washington Post on Friday.

"Now I hope it will take me... to the presidency of the World Bank. I am eager for this challenge."


Sachs, 57, directs the Earth Institute at Columbia University and is a special adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The economist and author directed the UN Millennium Project to reduce poverty, disease and hunger from 2002 to 2006.

His announcement opened the fight for the job running the World Bank, which has always been held by an American since it was launched in 1945.

Under an unwritten pact, Washington selects the head of the Bank and Europe's powers choose the managing director of its sibling, the International Monetary Fund.

Despite emerging economies' growing protests over that arrangement, the United States is again expected to pick whom the new Bank chief will be this year.

The target for a final decision is the joint Bank-IMF Spring Meetings on April 20-22 in Washington.

Washington has yet to show its hand, though most speculation has focused on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Treasury secretary Larry Summers and current Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Sachs said in his article that it was time the institution was led by a development expert.

"Unlike previous World Bank presidents, I don't come from Wall Street or US politics. I am a practitioner of economic development, a scholar and a writer. My track record is to side with the poor and hungry, not with a corporate balance sheet or a government," he said.

"Yet the solutions work for all -- the poor, companies, governments and the rest of us -- by creating a more prosperous, healthy and secure world."

Sachs said his experience, including the launch of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, would serve the bank's most important function.

"Finding the graceful way forward, forging the networks that can create global change, should be the bank's greatest role," Sachs said.

"I'll stand on my record of helping to create those networks."