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US Ambassador to UN Says Reforms Must Move Ahead

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, says more remains to be done in reforming the world body in the wake of a U.N. resolution that approved limited reforms. Mr. Bolton was on Capitol Wednesday for his first appearance before a congressional hearing since assuming his position.

Mr. Bolton was a lightning rod for controversy after his nomination was blocked in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

President Bush eventually gave him a recess appointment, a rare procedure used to overcome resistance from congressional critics who said Mr. Bolton was the wrong choice as UN ambassador.

His appearance came before a committee whose members all favor reform of the United Nations but differ over tactics, including House-approved Republican-sponsored legislation that links future U.S. contributions to the United Nations with implementation of tough reforms.

Congressman Henry Hyde says the U.N. reform document is short on specifics.

"The [UN] outcome document's lack of detail, and definitive statements on critical areas such as oversight, accountability, management and budgeting, do not inspire confidence," Mr. Hyde says.

Mr. Bolton says the United States supported the United Nations document because it considered it a first step toward reforming the organization:

"We joined in the consensus. We said at the time, and we believe now that it was an important first step in a process of U.N. reform," Mr. Bolton says. "It was not the alpha and the omega [everything we were seeking], but we never thought it would be the alpha and the omega."

Many lawmakers who fully support Bush administration efforts to press for rapid and comprehensive reform at the United Nations worry that member countries will now try to drag out the process.

Opposition to U.S. initiatives at the United Nations by certain countries came in for criticism by many lawmakers, including Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos.

"It is time for the United States to make it clear that no nation can continue to pretend that it is a friend of the United States while its missions in New York and Geneva continue to stab us in the back," Mr. Lantos says.

Mr. Lantos cited India's decision to vote with the United States in the recent International Atomic Energy Agency vote regarding Iran's nuclear program, saying this should be an important signal to others about what he calls the growing emphasis of quid pro quo in U.S. foreign policy.

Mr. Bolton says the United States is committed to ensuring that management, budgeting and oversight and other UN reforms move forward, including changing what he calls the current "broken inter-governmental decision-making machinery" on human rights.

"One of the things I think Americans just can't understand is how countries with abysmal human rights records get elected to the [UN] Human Rights Commission," Mr. Bolton says. "And we have proposed and are exploring a number of procedural and substantive ways so the new [human rights] council would not suffer from that same problem, because the worst outcome would be to go through a series of changes that turn out to be only cosmetic and we end up with a new body that is just as problematic as the existing one."

Mr. Bolton calls the human rights aspect of reform one of his highest priorities, along with the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers.

After months of negotiations, the final document on United Nations reform did not adopt a number of changes proposed by Secretary General Kofi Annan.