Players: Anne W. Patterson

As Bolton Battle Continues, A Steady Hand at the U.N.

Anne W. Patterson has drawn praise as acting U.S. ambassador to the U.N. while John R. Bolton awaits confirmation.
Anne W. Patterson has drawn praise as acting U.S. ambassador to the U.N. while John R. Bolton awaits confirmation. (By Kathy Willens -- Associated Press)
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 7, 2005

UNITED NATIONS -- The face of American power here is a 5-foot-1 woman who can charm foreign envoys even when she is enforcing policies that infuriate them. Anne W. Patterson, the acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, represents a stark contrast to the confrontational John R. Bolton, whom President Bush has nominated to represent the United States at the world body.

With Bolton's confirmation at risk, Patterson is leading U.S. efforts to grapple with a series of U.N. scandals, monitor the 191-member institution's multibillion-dollar peacekeeping enterprise, and reorient it to halt terrorism and the spread of the world's deadliest weapons.

Senior U.N. delegates say they value her pragmatism and they are in no hurry to see her replaced by Bolton.

"There are plenty of people who would like to see Bolton delayed indefinitely," one senior U.N. official said. "I haven't heard anyone saying we'd rather work with her than him, but obviously that's implicit."

John C. Danforth, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. mission "clearly suffers" from not having an ambassador in place. But he noted that Patterson had exhibited the skills to run the large mission when she served as his deputy.

"I don't know how the Bolton nomination stands," said Danforth, who resigned in January. "But she could certainly do that job and anything else."

Patterson, 55, is a career Foreign Service officer and has headed U.S. embassies in El Salvador and Colombia. She is the first woman to serve as U.S. deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, the second-highest-ranking U.S. official here. Since Danforth's departure, she has been coping with a broad range of crises -- including a recent upsurge of violence in Haiti that may require the deployment of U.S. troops -- with a thinly staffed and undersupported mission.

Three of the mission's five ambassadorial posts, including Bolton's, remain unfilled (although the United States has temporarily assigned a retired senior diplomat to oversee U.N. peacekeeping). The Bush administration has yet to appoint an assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which oversees U.N. policy.

"The women is doing four jobs," said Catherine Bertini, a former senior adviser to Secretary General Kofi Annan and the top U.S. citizen at the U.N. Secretariat before leaving the organization this spring.

Patterson has won high marks from her colleagues and staff members, who describe her as a smart manager who listens to advice from her specialists. She has won praise from human rights advocates for her role in implementing one of the largest U.S. foreign assistance programs, Plan Colombia, while serving as ambassador to Colombia.

"Anne Patterson was an outstanding ambassador," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch. Vivanco said that an unprecedented number of senior Colombian officers with alleged links to the country's paramilitary death squads were denied visas under her watch to travel to the United States. "She was never shy about raising human rights concerns or even criticizing publicly the poor record of the Colombian armed forces," he said.

But Patterson has also been targeted by congressional critics, who have faulted her role in scaling back a U.S.-backed opium-eradication program in Colombia in 2001 in order to step up spraying of Colombian coca. The decision coincided with an increase in heroin use in U.S. cities.

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