Bush Agenda Came 1st for Bolton at U.N.
Tuesday, December 5, 2006; 5:04 AM
UNITED NATIONS -- When U.S. Ambassador John Bolton took over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council in February, he started meetings promptly at 10 a.m. even if some seats were empty and kept a list of latecomers, not the usual diplomatic behavior.
For Bolton, the fine points of diplomacy took a back seat to his aggressive pursuit of President Bush's global agenda. Those efforts ranged from pressing for sanctions against North Korea and Iran to installing U.N. peacekeepers in conflict-wracked Darfur and overhauling the 61-year-old United Nations so it can meet the challenges of the 21st century.
He arrived at the United Nations in August 2005, a controversial figure appointed by Bush during a Congressional recess because he twice failed to be confirmed by the Senate. He resigned Monday still a controversial figure, admired for his negotiating skills and for making the 15-member council more punctual but criticized for his style.
Tanzania's U.N. Ambassador Augustine Mahiga called Bolton's approach "sometimes abrasive" and "too rigid" and said it provoked "unnecessary controversies" and made compromise and consensus difficult.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose strained relations with Bolton were no secret, reacted coolly to his resignation, saying he "did the job he was expected to do."
Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, the target of stinging criticism from Bolton, made his delight clear, telling reporters seeking reaction: "No comment _ and you can say he said it with a smile."
In June, Bolton said Malloch Brown made "a very, very grave mistake" by criticizing the United States for its policy of "stealth diplomacy" _ relying on the U.N. for many things but refusing to defend the organization to Americans. In September, Bolton charged that Malloch Brown had brought "great discredit" to the U.N. for criticizing U.S. and British diplomacy over Darfur.
Mahiga said Bolton "raised red flags" soon after his arrival when he proposed over 40 amendments to the draft text of a declaration to be issued by world leaders at the September 2005 U.N. summit, "almost overlooking entirely the millennium development goals." The goals, which are a top priority for the developing world, include cutting extreme poverty by half and ensuring universal primary education by 2015.
Fortunately, Mahiga said, Bush reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the goals in his speech to the summit "but that took a lot of time, and that set the tone of future relations between the members of the United Nations and Mr. Bolton."
The 58-year-old arms control expert with a distinctive white walrus mustache came to the job with a reputation for brilliance, obstinacy and speaking his mind and a mission to reform the United Nations. Bolton loves to spar with U.N. reporters, sometimes several times a day.
But Mahiga, who is finishing a two-year term on the council, said Bolton's rush to the microphone after council meetings created "uneasiness" among members because it "appeared like upstaging" the council president for the month who traditionally speaks first.
The Chinese, Greek and Argentine ambassadors agreed that Bolton's effort to reform the Security Council's operations has had one lasting effect _ meetings now start on time.