New U.S. Ambassador to U.N. Starts Job

The Associated Press
Monday, April 23, 2007; 4:04 PM

UNITED NATIONS -- Zalmay Khalilzad started his new job Monday as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, with one ambassador on the Security Council saying he has to be better than his controversial predecessor _ John Bolton.

Khalilzad was confirmed by the Senate on March 29 by unanimous voice vote to replace Bolton, whose nomination by President Bush sparked a bruising Senate debate. Bolton resigned in December, weeks before his recess appointment was to expire.

When asked about Khalilzad as he headed into a Security Council meeting Monday, South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said with a smile, "He can't be as bad as Bolton."

Afterward, the South African envoy said he was just joking with friends _ "but that is true anyway."

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the current Security Council president, said he never talks about colleagues, adding only: "I'm looking forward to working with him."

Bolton arrived at the United Nations in August 2005 after being appointed by Bush during a Congressional recess because he twice failed to be confirmed by the Senate. During his time in the post, he was admired for trying to promote U.S. foreign policy and for being a skilled negotiator _ but not for his often aggressive and abrasive style.

The Afghan-born Khalilzad, by contrast, has a reputation as a gregarious, glad-handing diplomat. He is a favorite at the White House, where he is known as "Zal," and a confidant of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, with whom he worked in the administration of Bush's father.

Khalilzad, who speaks several languages, served as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from June 2005 until last month and as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005. He was a counselor to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and special assistant to Bush at the National Security Council from 2000-2002.

Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the U.N., said that because Khalilzad is an Iraq expert, "it will be a very big priority for him to get the United Nations more involved in Iraq."

Khalilzad and other Security Council ambassadors leave Tuesday for a six-day trip to Serbia before they tackle the future status of Kosovo.

"It will provide him a very good opportunity to get to know the other ambassadors who are on the trip and have some down time and social time with them, as well as learn a very important issue in Kosovo," Grenell said.

© 2007 The Associated Press