US lawmakers pressed President Barack Obama to nominate economist Jeffrey Sachs as the next World Bank president as the White House scrambled to pick a different candidate ahead of next week's deadline.
In a letter to Obama, 27 fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives said that Sachs, whose self-declared candidacy has drawn a number of endorsements from around the world, has the leadership skills for the job.
Meanwhile the White House appeared still not ready to submit its own nominee to run the global development bank, a week after leaking out a shortlist of three high-powered possibilities -- none of them Sachs.
One person close to the World Bank said the administration is at an "impasse" because each of the three presents a problem.
Senator John Kerry has declared he does not want the job; UN ambassador Susan Rice is in line to become US secretary of state; and Harvard University economics professor and former World Bank chief economist Larry Summers is seen as divisive by some key allies of Washington.
"Summers doesn't look like a candidate who will have strong support... Apparently, he cannot gain the backing of all Group of Seven countries," the person said.
The US legislators pressed Obama to opt for Sachs, a development economist known for his work worldwide.
"We believe that Professor Sachs has the experience, expertise, and bold vision for the future needed to lead the World Bank at this critical moment in history." they said in the letter.
Sachs, 57, is the director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals.
In early March he announced his bid to succeed World Bank president Robert Zoellick, the former US diplomat who is stepping down when his term ends in June.
Since then Sachs has garnered official letters of support from Bhutan, East Timor, Haiti, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia and Namibia, and he told AFP Friday that his nomination has already been submitted to the Bank.
"It's been confirmed to me that my name has been put officially into nomination by one or more of the governments that has publicly endorsed my candidacy," he said Friday.
"Finding the graceful way forward, forging the networks that can create global change, should be the bank's greatest role," Sachs said in announcing his candidacy on March 2. "I'll stand on my record of helping to create those networks."
The World Bank would not confirm the nomination, saying the Board plans to release a short list of up to three candidates only after considering names submitted by the March 23 deadline.
And endorsement of Sachs' maverick move would be crucial to his candidacy.
Under a tacit agreement dating back to the founding of the institution, the US has always chosen the World Bank head -- and it has always been an American -- while Europe names a European chief of the International Monetary Fund.
But emerging economies have loudly protested that status quo, demanding greater representation at the two Washington-based institutions.
The source close to the bank said the US could miss the deadline for nominating someone.
"But it would not pose any problem to extend the deadline to March 23," the source said. It just takes an agreement by the board, the source added.
The World Bank has said it plans to fill the post by the start of its spring meetings with the IMF on April 20.