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U.S. Republicans join call to delay vote on Trump pick to head Latam bank

Andrea Shalal

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Three senior former U.S. officials, all Republicans, have joined a growing chorus calling for a delay in the mid-September vote on the next leader of Latin America's main development bank, part of growing opposition to the first-ever U.S. candidate.

Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former World Bank President Robert Zoellick and former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills urged a delay in a joint statement with Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the powerful U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, President Donald Trump's nominee to head the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), would be the first person from outside the region to head the IDB in its 61-year history.

Claver-Carone, known for his hardline stance on Cuba and Venezuela, is backed by 17 of the IDB's 28 member countries, but several others - Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica and Chile, as well as the European Union - are urging a delay in the vote.

It remains unclear if those countries, which control about 22% of the vote, will persuade enough members to block the needed 75% quorum to hold the vote, now slated for Sept. 12-13.

A group of former Latin American heads of state has also called for a delay, concerned that Trump could lose the Nov. 3 U.S. election, and his candidate could find it difficult to work with a Democratic administration.

"Electing Mr. Claver-Carone to a five-year term only weeks before the U.S. presidential election would trigger an immediate institutional crisis at the IDB and put in jeopardy U.S. support for the Bank, regardless of who wins the U.S. election," Leahy, Shultz, Hills and Zoellick wrote in a statement.

Leahy would assume control of the Senate appropriations committee if Democrats win control of the Senate, giving him the power to block U.S. contributions to the Bank.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who is leading Trump in national polls, opposes Claver-Carone's candidacy.

Claver-Carone argues that a minority of countries should not be allowed to override the views of a majority of IDB members.

Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, say Claver-Carone is the right man for the job and the vote should not be delayed. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal Editing by Alistair Bell)