By Lesley Wroughton and Tiago Pariz
WASHINGTON/BRASILIA (Reuters) - Former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo is set to withdraw his nomination for the World Bank presidency on Friday as developing nations try to coalesce around one nominee to challenge the United States for the job, three sources said.
Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would remain as the sole candidate from developing nations in a race against U.S. nominee Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American health expert who appears almost certain to win the post.
In a straw poll earlier this week, World Bank directors representing the Group of 11, which includes emerging countries and Australia, backed Okonjo-Iweala as the sole emerging market candidate, the sources said.
The decision to back Okonjo-Iweala does not mean that all developing countries will support her in the final decision on Monday when the World Bank board meets to find consensus on a successor to Robert Zoellick, who is departing in June.
Indeed, the promise of a united front from emerging markets evaporated on Friday when Russia said it would support Kim, becoming the first major emerging economy to do so.
"Taking into account Mr. Kim's considerable professional qualities as well as his experience and knowledge, the Russian Federation will support the candidacy of Jim Yong Kim during the voting by the bank's board of directors," the Russian Finance Ministry said in a statement.
With their candidates, emerging market nations are seeking to challenge U.S. leadership at the bank to increase their influence in global economic institutions long controlled by rich nations.
Under a informal agreement, the World Bank has always been headed by an American and the IMF by a European.
While Kim is still the favorite to win the World Bank presidency because of his backing from the United States and European countries, a rigorous challenge from emerging market countries could put them in a stronger position to extract concessions favorable to their interests. It also increases their odds of winning senior jobs in the future.
The final decision could come down to political horse-trading.
Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said earlier on Friday that that the BRICS group of emerging market countries, which includes Russian, India, China and South Africa, was likely to make a joint decision as soon as Friday on who to support for the job.
Mantega told reporters the five countries were still discussing which candidate they would support.
After meeting with Mantega on Thursday, Ocampo said developing nations wanted a single candidate to challenge Kim.
(Writing by Alonso Soto and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by James Dalgleish, M.D. Golan, Andrew Hay)