Bangladesh PM proposes Yunus as World Bank chief

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has proposed that Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, with whom she has often clashed in the past, become the next president of the World Bank.

Hasina told visiting EU parliamentarians on Wednesday that her compatriot Yunus, former head of microlender Grameen Bank, was respected for his pioneering role in using small loans to combat poverty.

"She said if Professor Yunus becomes the World Bank president, he could spread micro-credit as a poverty alleviation tool across the globe," Hasina's secretary Molla Waheduzzaman told AFP.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick will step down at the end of his five-year term on June 30, setting up a race for the top post at the development bank.

Yunus was fired by Bangladesh's central bank last year for exceeding the mandatory retirement age -- in a move widely seen as engineered by Hasina's government.

The 70-year-old, known as the "banker to the poor", challenged his dismissal, but his appeal was thrown out by the Supreme Court.

In an interview with the New York Times on Thursday, Yunus said the cause of his fractious relationship with Hasina was unclear.

"She never explained so I don't understand what went on, just speculation of various types in the press," he said. "One is that she feels I'm a political threat, I don't know why I'm a political threat."

Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won the Nobel peace prize in 2006 for creating "economic and social development from below".

The model has been copied in other developing countries and Yunus's sacking was criticised by international supporters including the US government.

Observers say Yunus was victimised by Hasina, whom he crossed in 2007 when he briefly set up a political party during a period of military rule.

The World Bank will select its new president before April 20. The post has traditionally always been held by an American citizen, although there have been calls to reform the practice.

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