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Thursday, April 17

College president joins Iraq rebuilding team

By Sharon Terlep and Katherine Hutt Scott | GNS

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has selected Michigan State University President Peter McPherson, formerly the No. 2 official at the U.S. Treasury Department, to help rebuild Iraq's post-war economy, university officials said Thursday.

It was not immediately clear how long McPherson, a friend of Vice President Dick Cheney, will help run Iraq's treasury department, but university officials said he plans to return to the university.

"Any assignment would be temporary," MSU trustee Scott Romney said. Trustee Joel Ferguson also confirmed McPherson's new appointment.

Peter Magrath, who is president of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges and has known McPherson for 20 years, said McPherson told him Thursday his assignment in Iraq will last three months. McPherson is an association board member.

McPherson couldn't immediately be reached on Thursday. A spokesman for the university declined to comment.

The team picked to help rebuild Iraq has not set a time line for its work, Department of Defense spokesman Chris Isleib said.

One major challenge will be rebuilding Iraq's banking system, said Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

``The banking system has been totally corrupted,'' Levin said. ``What was left of it after Saddam Hussein has been looted. In some sense, you're starting from scratch.''

Both Levin and Michigan's other senator, Democrat Debbie Stabenow, said McPherson is well qualified to aid in the reconstruction effort.

``I assume he was picked because of his extensive experience in rebuilding countries abroad, coupled with his experience in Treasury,'' said Stabenow, a Democrat.

McPherson has a longstanding interest in helping other countries, Magrath said. Besides serving as a Peace Corps volunteer, McPherson has worked with former President Jimmy Carter in monitoring overseas elections, he said.

McPherson has headed the 45,000-student university in East Lansing, Mich., since 1993. He served as deputy treasury secretary in the Reagan administration from 1987 to 1989, focusing on trade, tax and international issues.

From 1981 to 1987, he headed the U.S. Agency for International Development, where he was in charge of sending food to Africa during the 1984-85 famine. He was an executive at Bank of America from 1989 to 1993, negotiating the restructuring of debt in Latin America.


^The Peter McPherson File

Name: Peter McPherson.

Age: 62

Born: Oct. 27, 1940 in Lowell, Michigan.

Education: Bachelor's degree from Michigan State University, 1963; master's degree in business administration from Western Michigan University, 1967; law degree from American University Law School, 1969.

Religion: Protestant.

Family: Wife, Joanne; four children.

Home: East Lansing

Career experience: Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, 1981-1987; deputy secretary, U.S. Treasury Department, 1987-1989; Bank of America executive, 1989-1993; president, Michigan State University, 1993 to present.

Source: Michigan State University.


(Sharon Terlep reports for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal)