Bush nominates Bolton as U.S. envoy to UN
Saul Hudson, Reuters/Washington
President George W. 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 UN 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.
"The president and I have asked John to do this work because he knows how to get things done. He is a tough-minded diplomat," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, announcing the nomination at the State Department, said. "He will be a strong voice for reform."
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 UN effectiveness and a disdain for some international treaties.
"The (UN) 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.
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.