Bush nominates UN critic Bolton as UN envoy
US President Bush on Monday nominated John Bolton, a blunt long-time critic of the United Nations, to be U.S. ambassador to the world body in a move that raised doubts about Bush's new emphasis on diplomacy.
The decision surprised many U.N. diplomats and upset Democrats in Congress, who denounced the choice as divisive and capable of jeopardizing Bush's attempts this year to repair diplomatic ties frayed in his first term over the Iraq war.
Bolton, 56, who has been undersecretary of state for arms control and international security since May 2001, is a leading hawk on Iran and North Korea as the Bush administration seeks to halt their suspected nuclear arms programs.
Bolton's nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, where he could face a rocky time as Democrats and some Republicans were expected to bring up dismissive comments he has aimed at U.N. effectiveness and a disdain for some international treaties.
"The (U.N.) Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," Bolton said in a 1994 panel discussion sponsored by the World Federalist Association.
In his first term, Bush was accused by many countries of taking a go-it-alone attitude and launched the Iraq war despite failing to secure support from the 15-member Security Council.
Since the 2003 Iraq invasion, the United States has worked more closely with the United Nations -- especially over Iraqi elections -- but it has been less supportive of Secretary-General Kofi Annan than other major powers during a scandal over the Iraq oil-for-food program.
"Bush's nomination sends a very clear message that the administration is committed to far-reaching, fundamental reforms of the United Nations. The No. 1 priority will be to increase its accountability," Nile Gardiner of the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation said.
If approved, Bolton will succeed former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, who resigned in December.
ANTIPATHY TO U.N.
Several envoys to the U.N. Security Council privately expressed astonishment that Bush would name someone who had shown such antipathy toward the United Nations.
But one senior council diplomat, who asked not to be named, also said Bolton's high standing among conservatives in the U.S. administration may be a plus. "It's like the Palestinians having to negotiate with (Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon. If you have a deal, you know you have a deal," he said.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Annan warmly congratulated Bolton. "I don't know about what previous biases he may bring here. We have nothing against people who do hold us accountable," the spokesman said.
But Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said Bolton was the wrong choice when the United States was seeking to mend fences after the Iraq invasion.
"I have every reason to believe that John Bolton's antipathy to the U.N. will prevent him from effectively discharging his duties as our ambassador," he said.
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he was "surprised" by Bolton's nomination and said his "stated attitude toward the United Nations gives me great pause."
Sen. Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, said he would probably vote to approve Bolton but did not offer a clear endorsement. "I'm going to reserve any comments about the appropriateness or not of the president's choice," he told reporters.
Republican committee members Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island also gave Bolton less than full support.
Bolton "has been an outspoken critic of the United Nations. However I have been assured that he will bring a more balanced approach to his new role," said Chafee.
Hagel said while the United Nations needs reform "just to go up there and kick the United Nations around doesn't get the job done."
Bolton, who keeps a model hand grenade conspicuously on a table in his office, stressed what he called "his support for effective multilateral diplomacy" when he appeared with Rice for the nomination announcement.
"Close cooperation and the time-honored tradition of frank communication is central to achieving our mutually -held objectives. The United Nations affords us the opportunity to move our policies forward together with unity of purpose," he said.