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World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz in FranceHeadlines today suggest a decidedly friendly visit by World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to the City of Lights. As reported in the Washington Post:

[Wolfowitz] praised French President Jacques Chirac's wisdom on Africa and told how he was having weekly French lessons to improve his work with Francophone countries in a bid to win over the key donor after a spat over loan conditions.

Also, as reported on the World Bank's daily press review, he reserved special praise for the French-led international drug purchasing fund, UNITAID.

Traveling the few miles between the Pentagon and the 13th floor of World Bank headquarters seems to have made a big difference in Mr. Wolfowitz's point of view. In April 2003, as US deputy defense secretary, he was decidedly less interested in praising French foreign policy, saying that France should "pay some consequences" for its opposition to the US-led war in Iraq, and for its veto of NATO support for Turkey. On the wisdom of UNITAID, there also appears to be a lot of daylight between Wolfowitz and his former colleagues in the US Administration, which have kept the initiative at arm's length.

At a time when policy is often portrayed as a function of the personalities and preferences of individuals who hold positions of power, and we're encouraged to love 'em or hate 'em, it's an interesting example of the time-tested adage: Where you stand depends on where you sit.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.