As the chief architect of the US-led invasion of Iraq and leading White House neo-conservative, he is being viewed as a controversial choice.

The head of the World Bank is traditionally chosen by the US, but still requires approval from European members.

France says it will examine the nomination, which it calls a “proposal”, while Germany’s develop minister says “the enthusiasm in old Europe is not exactly overwhelming.”

Britain is reserving its response but British finance minister Gordon Brown has described Mr Wolfowitz as “a very distinguished person”.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair says Britain will hold consultations on any appointment.

“It’s for the Bank’s board to take the decision on the appointment of the president of the Bank, and we are not going to get into a commentary on that selection process,” he said.

But Iraq war critic and Britain’s former international development secretary Clare Short was vehement.

She told British television that the nomination was like giving “two fingers to the world”.

“This is really shocking. It’s as though they (the Americans) are trying to wreck our international systems,” she said.

Meanwhile Greenpeace says Mr Wolfowitz would be a “disaster for sustainable development” because they believe he will only serve US interests, while the World Development Movement says it’s a “truly terrifying appointment”.

The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development is apprehensive.

“If you look at Africa, for instance, his main concern has been the war on terrorism,” CAFOD’s George Gelber said.

“As far as development is concerned, he is an unknown quantity.”

But Japan and China have offered their public backing to Mr Wolfowitz who says he will work in the interests of the world’s poor.

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