Bolton Confirmation More Likely Now Than in 2005

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is once again up for Senate confirmation to the post he has occupied since President Bush named him in a recess appointment. While intractable Senate opposition to Bolton's nomination made the recess move necessary last year, there are signs Bolton may be confirmed.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, was on Capitol Hill today for a second attempt to win Senate confirmation. Last year President Bush got around opposition in the Senate by giving Bolton a recess appointment which expires at the end of this year. Well now the White House is trying again to get him through the Senate so that he can stay on as U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

To his supports, John Bolton is smart and persistent, just the sort of representative they think is need to reform the United Nations. His critics say his abrasive style has alienated UN diplomats and undercut America's efforts to reform the UN.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Beiden of Delaware, says the Bush administration may be calling this the year of diplomacy, but he says it doesn't look to be the case.

Senator JOSEPH BEIDEN (Democrat, Delaware): My concern is that at the moment of the greatest need for diplomacy in our recent history, we are not particularly effective at it.

KELEMEN: Democrat Christopher Dodd of Connecticut says he thinks John Bolton has an aversion to being diplomatic. Dodd said the U.S. reform agenda isn't being met. Bolton attended only a few of the 30 negotiating sessions to create the new Human Rights Council, despite the priority the U.S. placed on that reform. In the end, Senator Dodd pointed out the U.S. didn't support the council or run for a seat on it.

Senator CHRISTOPHER DODD (Democrat, Connecticut): When the score is tallied on the effectiveness of Mr. Bolton at the United Nations, I think he receives a failing grade.

KELEMEN: Another hot topic at today's hearings was UN management reform - or lack thereof. Ambassador Bolton said he can't be blamed for what he calls the culture of inaction. He also dismissed concerns from Democrat Paul Sarbanes that Bolton has alienated U.S. allies in the diplomatic core.

Mr. JOHN BOLTON (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations): In my daily relationships with the ambassadors, I treat them with respect. They treat me with respect. I think we get the job done.

Senator PAUL SARBANES (Democrat, Maryland): Well, you didn't get the reforms done, did you?

Mr. BOLTON: We face substantial opposition to the reforms. I think we have to continue our efforts. There's no question about that.

KELEMEN: Republicans on the committee expressed their support for Bolton calling for an up or down vote on the Senate floor, which Democrats prevented last year. Senator John Warner of Virginia dropped in on the committee to encourage his colleagues to think about the need for continuity in U.S. representation at the UN.

Senator JOHN WARNER (Republican, Virginia): I do believe, without any reservations whatsoever, that the Senate will and should give that advice and consent to this nominee, because he becomes an integral member of the president's national security team at a time when our nation is faced with these many complex issues.

KELEMEN: John Bolton weighed in on many of the issues, from the current crisis in the Middle East to North Korea's recent missile tests. Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts complained that a recent UN Security Council resolution on North Korea had to be watered down to get Russia and China on board. Ambassador Bolton saw it as a diplomatic victory for the U.S. to get the council united on the issue for the first time in more than a decade.

Mr. BOLTON: And you know what North Korea did? You know what they thought of that resolution? They sat there in the council chamber and after we voted to adopt it, they rejected it and got up and walked out of the council chamber. I think that resolution had a clear effect on North Korea.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Maryland): What was the effect?

Mr. BOLTON: That they understand how isolated they are.

KELEMEN: Ambassador Bolton also said he expects the Security Council to pass a resolution on Iran's nuclear program, though that has been an uphill battle. Florida Democrat Bill Nelson had some advice for the ambassador.

Senator BILL NELSON (Democrat, Florida): I want you to get tough with the Chinese and the Russians.

Mr. BOLTON: I will be pleased to carry out that instruction, Senator.

KELEMEN: Russia and China have drawn lessons for the pre-Iraq war debate at the Security Council and have since been extremely reluctant to pass resolutions that could even the door for military confrontation. That has made Bolton's job more difficult as he tries to get a legally binding resolution to demand that Iran suspend all controversial nuclear activities.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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