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Bolton Expected to be Confirmed as the Next US Ambassador to the United Nations

  • Leta Fincher

John Bolton's confirmation hearing as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations will be held Wednesday, April 7. He is expected to be confirmed, although analysts say he will likely face heated questions from Democratic Party lawmakers in the U.S. Senate hearings. One of the Bush administration's most prominent conservatives, the tough-talking Mr. Bolton has been a severe critic of the international body.

John Bolton, who has been the State Department's arms control chief, is not known for mincing words.

Two years ago in Seoul, on the eve of six-nation talks about North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Mr. Bolton denounced North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as, in his words, a "tyrannical dictator".

“While he lives like royalty in Pyongyang, he keeps hundreds of thousands of people locked in prison camps, with millions more mired in abject poverty. For many in North Korea, life is a hellish nightmare,” said Mr. Bolton.

In response, the North Korean government called Mr. Bolton "human scum" and refused to accept him as a member of the U.S. negotiating team.

As to the United Nations, Mr. Bolton was widely quoted as saying in 1994 that if the UN secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.

Supporters say that Mr. Bolton will be a strong voice for reform at a time when the United Nations has begun to reform itself.

In announcing his nomination, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised Mr. Bolton for helping to build an international coalition to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction. She added that Mr. Bolton played a key role in negotiations with Libya to give up its nuclear weapons.

"The president and I have asked John to do this work because he knows how to get things done. He's a tough-minded diplomat. He has a strong record of success and he has a proven track record of effective multilateralism," says Dr. Rice.

Nile Gardiner, a security expert at the Heritage Foundation research group in Washington D.C., agrees. Mr. Gardiner says that President Bush is demonstrating the importance he attaches to the United Nations by nominating an influential Washington figure as the UN ambassador.

"I think that John Bolton, for example, will be actively involved in any negotiations with the Iranian regime over the nuclear issue, Bolton will be a central figure in terms of dealing with dangerous rogue states, he will also be a central figure in terms of reforming the UN, including institutions such as the UN Commission on Human Rights," says Nile Gardiner.

Other analysts argue that President Bush's nomination of Mr. Bolton sends a confusing message to the world.

Rick Barton is an expert on international security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. "It's unclear whether this is somebody who believes in the core value of the United Nations. And it comes right after the president has been travelling through Europe in particular to suggest that we're not interested in a unilateral approach to foreign policy. So it's a bit contradictory," says Rick Barton.

Some Democratic Party lawmakers have criticized Mr. Bolton as a polarizing figure and Mr. Barton expects heated questions in the Senate confirmation hearings.

"I think he will be challenged and I think he should be challenged. He had the luxury of being able to say whatever he felt like saying and now he has the responsibility of being one of America's most prominent foreign spokespeople," says Rick Barton.

Mr. Bolton was narrowly confirmed as Undersecretary of State four years ago in a straight party vote - Republicans for, Democrats against. Most analysts expect a similar vote this time, and a confirmation as UN ambassador.