Much of the opposition to Mr. Bolton stems from his blunt criticism of the United Nations, including a quip several years ago that the U.N. could get along fine without the top ten floors of its New York headquarters, which house its top officials.
But in a Washington address Friday to newspaper editors, Ms. Rice said despite the comments, Mr. Bolton believes the United Nations is important to U.S. foreign policy, to help mobilize against terrorism, trafficking in persons, weapons proliferation, and other global problems.
Ms. Rice said that with the United Nations facing scandals over the Iraq oil-for-food program and the conduct of peacekeepers in Africa, it in her words "cannot survive as a vital force in international politics if it does not reform its organizations, secretariat and management practices."
The Secretary said the kind of candidness shown by Mr. Bolton is needed, if the problems of the world body are to be addressed and dealt with successfully. "You know, it's fine to say all nice things about the United Nations. As important an institution as it is, one has to say there are some things that are not so great about the United Nations right now. And everybody recognizes that, and we've got to fix it. And so his commitment to me and to the President is that he is going to be a force for what is always needed in the United Nations: American leadership to update and reform and strengthen this great institution," she said.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is to vote next Tuesday on the Bolton nomination. Its hearings on the issue were marked by charges that Mr. Bolton, as Under-Secretary of State for arms control, bullied intelligence analysts he perceived to be impeding his policy goals.
The Foreign Relations Committee is split along partisan lines over Mr. Bolton, and groups of former government officials from past Republican and Democratic administrations have also lined up to either support or oppose the nomination.
The petitioning began last month when some 60 former diplomats and officials urged the committee to reject Mr. Bolton, who they said consistently opposed efforts to improve U.S. national security through arms control.
Friday, the State Department distributed a group endorsement of Mr. Bolton from nearly 150 former cabinet members and officials, including five former Secretaries of State from Republican administrations.
Absent from the list was Secretary of State Rice's immediate predecessor, Colin Powell, under whom Mr. Bolton served in the arms control post.
A vote against Mr. Bolton by just one Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee, which has ten Republicans and eight Democrats, could block the nomination.
However, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin, said Thursday he expects Mr. Bolton will ultimately be confirmed.