|Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco|
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says it is time for Congress to approve nominee John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Ms. Rice raised the issue in a wide-ranging speech in San Francisco Friday.
President Bush nominated Mr. Bolton to the U.N. post more than 11 weeks ago. Thursday, Democrats forced the senate to postpone a vote on his confirmation. The senate will take up the matter after it reconvenes June 7, following a weeklong Memorial Day recess.
Mr. Bolton, who is currently undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, has been an outspoken critic of the United Nations. Democrats say he tried to shape intelligence to meet his ideological goals, which they say makes him unfit for the UN post. There have also been questions by members of both parties over Mr. Bolton's temper and his allegedly harsh treatment of subordinates. His defenders say Mr. Bolton did not mistreat them and that he is entitled to disagree with intelligence estimates.
Secretary Rice told a San Francisco audience that the nominee is tough and has rough edges. "But I know many people who work for him who would walk through the wall for him. He has inspired them, and I suspect he will do the same thing when he goes to the United Nations," she said.
She said Mr. Bolton, who is aware of the flaws of the United Nations, can be effective in reforming and strengthening the body.
In other remarks, Ms. Rice outlined the Bush administration's strategy of promoting democracy in the Middle East. She said the spread of freedom serves U.S. national interests because it allows diverse societies to resolve their internal differences peacefully. She says that process is underway in Iraq, despite challenges.
As she spoke about developments in the Middle East, two hooded hecklers dressed in black started shouting, apparently in reference to US abuse of detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. After a brief pause, Ms. Rice used the interruption to make a point. "Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in Baghdad and Kabul and soon in Beirut, they too will be able to speak their minds. What a wonderful thing democracy is," she said.
The secretary of state says there are enormous challenges in Iraq, but that the response of voters to free elections January 30, despite the threat of violence, shows democracy is taking root there. More than eight million people voted in the Iraqi election.