Monday, April 11, 2005

Democrats Seek to Block Bolton as UN Ambassador

Yahoo! News


Democrats Seek to Block Bolton as UN Ambassador

By Saul Hudson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats hope to block President Bush's pick to be the U.N. ambassador at a hearing on Monday expected to focus on allegations that nominee John Bolton sought to fire intelligence analysts who disagreed with him.

Bush's choice of a blunt-speaking, longtime detractor of the United Nations has been a lightning rod for criticism of the president from those who perceive he has forged a "go-it-alone" approach to U.S. foreign policy.

"When the country chooses an ambassador to the United Nations, it ought to avoid picking someone whose bullying style of leadership symbolizes everything that created the current estrangement between the United States and most of the world," the New York Times, said in an editorial last week.

Bolton is currently the top U.S. diplomat for nonproliferation. He said in 1994, "it wouldn't make a bit of difference" if the U.N. headquarters building lost 10 stories.

His supporters say Bolton will help shape a more effective United Nations which acts with strong U.S. leadership.

Democrats have 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.

Leading up to the confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, they have zeroed in on accusations Bolton pressed for two intelligence analysts to be fired after they appeared soft on Cuba with assessments that contradicted his position.

"There's very credible information that Mr. Bolton tried to have analysts -- intelligence analysts, in at least two cases -- removed from their jobs because he was going to state a position which was in contradiction to the information that the intelligence community believed was correct," Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, told ABC.

Sen. Joseph Biden, the committee's ranking Democrat from Delaware, said of Bolton's alleged pressure, "In the post-9/11 environment, that's a very bad idea."

Senators' aides have conducted interviews in recent days to try and confirm the allegations, but committee chairman Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, told CNN they had failed to produce evidence supporting the accusations.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher dismissed as "old stories" attacks on Bolton ahead of the hearing, which could stretch beyond Monday.

Democrats are trying to persuade at least one Republican on the committee to vote against Bolton in hopes of blocking the nomination, which would not advance on a committee tie.

Bolton's nomination sparked a flurry of lobbying.

A group made up mostly of former diplomats and arms control officials in a letter urged the committee to reject him, saying he "cannot be an effective promoter of U.S. interests at the U.N."

However, a group made up mostly of former defense officials countered with a letter that Bolton has Bush's confidence and would show "the sort of assertive representation of U.S. interests" that it said has been the hallmark of some of the most effective U.S. ambassadors to the world body.