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Critic of U.N. Named Envoy

Bush's Choice of Bolton Is a Surprise; Democrats Plan to Contest Nomination

By Glenn Kessler and Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 8, 2005; Page A01

President Bush named Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton yesterday as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a surprise choice that would send an outspoken critic of the world body's effectiveness to its inner councils.

Bolton's government experience stretches through three Republican administrations, and his tough language and willingness to eschew diplomatic niceties have earned him both fans and critics overseas and in the bureaucracy. In Bush's first term, he proved to be highly effective at advancing his strong conservative views within the administration, even when he was at odds with then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and much of the State Department.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the appointment of Undersecretary John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. (Shaun Heasley -- Reuters)

Full Text: Rice announces the nomination of Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

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The post requires Senate confirmation, and Democrats immediately signaled they would wage a spirited confirmation battle. Forty-three Democrats voted against his nomination as undersecretary for arms control four years ago; even some Republicans privately expressed dismay at Bolton's elevation yesterday.

Some U.N. diplomats said they were surprised. European officials said they were puzzled at how the appointment meshed with the administration's recent efforts at consultative diplomacy.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who announced the nomination, alluded to Bolton's reputation when she noted that "some of our best ambassadors" to the United Nations have been those with "the strongest voices," such as Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Bolton would replace John C. Danforth, who resigned after barely six months as ambassador. An aide to Rice, calling the appointment a "Nixon goes to China" move, said the secretary recommended Bolton to Bush several weeks ago. Rice told reporters Bolton was selected "because he knows how to get things done."

Bolton acknowledged yesterday that he has written critically of the United Nations, saying one highlight of his career was his role in the successful 1991 repeal of the General Assembly 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism, "thus removing the greatest stain on the U.N.'s reputation."

He said he has consistently stressed in his writings that "American leadership is critical to the success of the U.N., an effective U.N., one that is true to the original intent of its charter's framers."

Bolton, 56, served in the administration of George H.W. Bush, father of the current president, as assistant secretary of state for international organizations, and in the Reagan administration as an assistant attorney general. He keeps a mock grenade in his office, labeled "To John Bolton -- World's Greatest Reaganite."

Throughout the current administration's first term, Bolton was often at odds with the United Nations and related institutions.

He spearheaded U.S. opposition to the International Criminal Court, declaring that the day he signed the letter withdrawing the U.S. signature on the treaty was "the happiest moment of my government service." He was the force behind Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative, a coalition designed to halt trade in nuclear materials that bypassed the United Nations. And he pressed the administration's unsuccessful campaign to deny a third term to Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On the eve of six-nation talks over North Korea's nuclear ambitions two years ago, Bolton traveled to Seoul and denounced North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in highly personal terms. He labeled Kim a "tyrannical dictator" who had made North Korea "a hellish nightmare" -- which prompted the North Korean government to call him "human scum and bloodsucker."

Bolton also frequently riled European allies with his uncompromising stands -- and his disdain for their fledging efforts to secure an agreement with Iran to end its nuclear programs.

Bolton often had tense relations with his nominal boss, Powell, though he was viewed by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as a loyal supporter of the president. Bolton played a key behind-the-scenes role in the 2000 Florida recount battle that secured Bush's victory. When Rice bypassed Bolton for deputy secretary of state -- picking instead the pragmatic trade representative, Robert B. Zoellick -- and signaled that a key aide from the National Security Council would take Bolton's arms-control portfolio, it appeared uncertain whether a sufficiently prominent spot could be found for him in the second term.

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