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International Journalists Discuss John Bolton’s Nomination to be America’s U.N. Ambassador

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has delayed a vote on John Bolton, President Bush’s controversial nominee as America’s ambassador to the United Nations. Republican Senator Voinovich of Ohio expressed his reluctance to back Mr. Bolton. Without Senator Voinovich’s support, Republicans who control the committee by a 10-8 margin cannot bring the nomination to the full Senate.

Last month, nearly 60 former American diplomats sent a letter to urge the Senate to reject his nomination to be American’s next ambassador to the United Nations. Their criticism dealt primarily with Mr. Bolton’s stand on arms control issues, but it also chided him for his view that the U.N. is valuable only when it directly serves U.S. interests. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are also studying allegations that Mr. Bolton misused authority and intimidated intelligence analysts who challenged his views.

Talking with host Judith Latham of VOA New Now’s International Press Club, Mattheis Rueb of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described the initial European reaction to Mr. Bolton’s nomination to be America’s U.N. ambassador as “visceral.” He compared it with the choice of Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank, which also drew heavy criticism but has now mellowed. Mr. Rueb said that, because Mr. Bolton is considered such a hard-liner in the Bush administration, Europeans question whether he would be able to foster needed reforms or whether he would like to see the United Nations “weakened and transformed into a tool of American interests.”

Rami Khouri, editor of Beirut’s Daily Star, said that – if John Bolton is eventually confirmed – he thinks people around the world will simply need to “wait and see” how Mr. Bolton might perform as America’s representative to the United Nations. Mr. Khouri said the ideological and political dimension of the Bolton appointment is most troubling. He asserted that many around the world perceive that “the United States uses the U.N. when it wants to and ignores it when it doesn’t.”

Chidanand Rajghatta, Washington bureau chief of the Times of India, said many Indian policymakers look at John Bolton’s nomination through the prism of India’s own ambitions to become a permanent member of the Security Council. As he explained, India has support from Britain, France, Russia, and perhaps China, but the United States is the “one holdout.” And against this backdrop, Mr. Rajghatta said, Mr. Bolton’s nomination is not looked upon very favorably by New Delhi.

But Mr. Rajghatta agreed with Matthias Rueb of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Rami Khouri of the Beirut Daily Star that if Mr. Bolton became US Ambassador to the U.N., he would likely soften his tone. Nonetheless, Mr. Rajghatta wondered why the Bush administration would nominate a harsh critic of the United Nations, when it has been trying to improve its image at the world body.

Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed to put off any decision on Mr. Bolton’s nomination until the first week of May to allow a review of new allegations that, according to Democrats, cast doubt on his management style and credibility. Meantime, the Bush administration accused democrats of blocking Mr. Bolton's nomination for political reasons and says it is still confident John Bolton will be confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. White House spokesman Scott McClellan accused opposition Democrats of making unfounded allegations against Mr. Bolton.

To listen to all of the comments, click on the audio link above.