Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Controversy persists as Bolton heads for U.N.


Controversy persists as Bolton heads for U.N.

By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Once dubbed the State Department's "most dangerous man," U.S. ambassador John Bolton will bring an aggressive, sometimes-abrasive style to the United Nations that appears at odds with President Bush's new focus on cooperation and diplomacy.

Bush bypassed the Senate and appointed Bolton to the U.N. post on Monday, after the nomination was stalled by Democratic opposition. Under the so-called "recess appointment," Bolton will be able to serve until January 2007.

Bolton has a long history of criticizing the United Nations, has sometimes doubted that European and Asian allies could be counted on to back U.S. positions and has often spoken out so bluntly he was considered political dynamite.

But he is a favorite of conservatives who value his committed hard-line ideology, incisive legal mind and the single-minded passion with which he seeks to turn those views into U.S. policy, often with great effect.

While he revels in a fight, Bolton's controversial demeanor and record deprived him of endorsement by the U.S. Senate. Unable to win Bolton's confirmation by the normal Senate process, Bush bypassed lawmakers and made a recess appointment that only lasts 17 months.

Bolton clearly has Bush's support and is expected to make his time in office count, especially in pursuing the key Republican goal of U.N. reform.

Since Bush's re-election last year, the president and his aides have emphasized a renewed focus on diplomacy and shoring up relations with allies after strains over the Iraq war.

Some officials say Bolton may be more closely scripted working for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice than when he was undersecretary for nonproliferation under her predecessor, Colin Powell.

Bolton, a 56-year-old lawyer, is an unapologetic advocate of assertive American global leadership. Some analysts said appointing him U.N. envoy may be the best way to ensure that U.N. reform takes place and is credible to U.S. conservatives.

Critics accuse him of provoking confrontations over Iran and North Korea. With Rice now heading State and Bolton replaced as nonproliferation adviser, the administration has shifted from some of his harder positions by endorsing European negotiations with Iran, showing flexibility in talks with Pyongyang and agreeing to broad nuclear cooperation with India.


But some experts credit Bolton with infusing new energy into efforts to curb nuclear-weapons proliferation, including rigorous use of sanctions to penalize Chinese and other entities doing nuclear and missile business with Iran.

He is also associated with a security initiative under which more than 60 countries agreed to interdict illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction and their components.

Bolton, top nonproliferation official in 2001-2005, hoped for a promotion in Bush's second term and was disappointed when Rice chose Trade Representative Robert Zoellick as her deputy. For months, his political future seemed in limbo.

Apart from policy contributions, Bolton helped ensure Bush's first presidential victory. He was on the team former Secretary of State James Baker took to Florida in 2000 to represent the Bush campaign in a disputed vote count ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms, a conservative Republican from North Carolina, once called Bolton "the man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon" and another admirer described him in the Wall Street Journal as "the most dangerous man at State."

During Bolton's unsuccessful Senate confirmation fight, one former U.S. official who had tangled with him described him as a "quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy."

But Bolton himself enjoys throwing rhetorical hand grenades and keeps a defused real one in his office, along with a copy of the "most dangerous man at State" article.


A fierce infighter with an independent streak, he has insisted on holding Iran and North Korea to strict account for their nuclear activities and has voiced an interest in seeing both governments overturned.

He has fought repeated administration battles aimed at bringing both countries to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions and at countering other officials who wanted to pursue dialogue.

Bolton "has overseen this administration's flawed proliferation policy that has seen North Korea quadruple its nuclear arsenal and seen Iran take dangerous steps toward the development of nuclear weapons," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Attempting to defuse opposition, Rice has extolled Bolton's previous service as the assistant secretary of state who dealt with the United Nations and his successful 1991 campaign to persuade the international body to repeal a resolution that equated Zionism with racism.

But Bolton also led the U.S. withdrawal from International Criminal Court jurisdiction and encouraged U.S. opposition to Europe's decision to lift its arms embargo on China, two initiatives that fanned tensions with allies.