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Correction to This Article
A July 27 article incorrectly said that President Bush installed John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in August 2004. Bolton was appointed in August 2005.

The Bolton Nomination, Act II

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By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 27, 2006

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 -- U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton's blunt diplomatic style has made him a political rock star among conservative Republicans who relish his routine exposure of U.N. foibles and criticism of its bureaucrats.

But international diplomats, including several from countries closely allied with the United States, complain that he has furthered U.S. isolation here and undercut U.S.-backed efforts to reform the sprawling bureaucracy of the United Nations.

"He sometimes makes it very difficult to build bridges because he is a very honest and blunt person," said South Africa's U.N. ambassador, Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, chairman of a coalition of developed nations. He said there is a perception among many developed countries in the coalition, known as the Group of 77, that it appears "Ambassador Bolton wants to prove nothing works at the United Nations."

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins hearings Thursday on whether to make Bolton's temporary appointment, which will expire in January, permanent. His appearance in Washington, where Democratic leaders have vowed to oppose Bolton, is expected to be as polarizing as his presence at U.N. headquarters.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said, "Mr. Bolton's performance at the U.N. only confirms my conviction that he's the wrong person for this job." He suggested that Democrats may filibuster a Senate vote unless the Bush administration releases documents Biden believes detail Bolton's use of National Security Agency intercepts involving U.S. citizens.

President Bush installed Bolton at the United Nations in August 2004, during a congressional recess, sidestepping opposition from Democrats and three Republican moderates, who voiced concern over Bolton's confrontational style.

But the White House is now pressing for speedy confirmation. The Foreign Relations Committee scheduled a hearing after Sen. George V. Voinovich (Ohio), a Republican who joined Democrats in blocking the nomination last year, said he now supports Bolton.

Bolton's defenders say he has rightfully upended the status quo at the United Nations, which has been plagued by financial and sexual misconduct scandals in Iraq and Congo. They say his aggressive pursuit of U.S. interests has irritated foreign delegations, including European allies who see the world body as a means of constraining U.S. power.

"Bolton is not loved at Turtle Bay," the Manhattan neighborhood that is home to the United Nations, "but he is well-respected and he is regarded as a force to be reckoned with," said Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. "He has done a very successful job in terms of highlighting the huge, myriad failures within the United Nations."

Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.) and other Republican Bolton supporters maintain it is vital to show that the ambassador has Congress's full support when he is grappling with multiple crises in the Middle East and North Korea. Bolton, they insist, has demonstrated effectiveness by helping to guide a tough U.N. Security Council condemnation of North Korea and is working to impose sanctions on Iran for flouting international demands to halt its enrichment and reprocessing of uranium.

Bolton maintains that he has successfully built alliances on a range of issues, but that the effort to streamline the U.N. bureaucracy has been thwarted by entrenched diplomats who fear change will imperil their privileges. He said in an interview that he has avoided needless confrontation that "would raise the level of acrimony in an unproductive way."

Bolton's initial foray into diplomacy at the United Nations began with the negotiation of a joint statement outlining a range of U.N. changes in September that was endorsed by Bush and other world leaders. He rankled delegates by reopening talks on a painstakingly negotiated statement and pressed for more than 700 modifications. Still, many diplomats voiced grudging admiration for Bolton's tough style.


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