The controversy over the nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations followed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Brazil Tuesday. At a news conference in Brasilia, she urged the Senate to finish its advise-and-consent process and approve Mr. Bolton.
Ms. Rice has largely steered clear of the controversy over Mr. Bolton, leaving the defense of the embattled nominee to administration spokesmen.
But at a news conference here, the Secretary offered unqualified support for the State Department arms control chief, who has come under attack for allegedly bullying intelligence analysts to support his hard-line views.
Speaking after talks with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on a range of issues including United Nations reform, Ms. Rice said she and President Bush continue to believe that the blunt-speaking Mr. Bolton is the best person to assume the U.N. job, at what she said is a critical time for the world body.
She said the State Department has worked overtime with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to try to allay concerns over allegations about Mr. Bolton's treatment of subordinates, some of which she said are only whispers.
What is being lost in the debate, she suggested, is that Mr. Bolton has been a capable diplomat by almost every account of his activities. "Everybody knows that he was important in getting the Proliferation Security Initiative through, that he was important in the repeal of the Zionism-is-racism resolution in the U.N., which was really one the darkest moments in the U.N.'s history. That he was important in carrying out the execution of the Moscow treaty, which cut radically U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. This is a very, very good diplomat. We need at the United Nations a strong voice and everybody knows that the U.N. needs reform," she said.
The Senate committee has put off action on the Bolton nomination until at least May 12th amid concerns by minority Democrats and some Republicans about Mr. Bolton's fitness.
Ms. Rice, while saying she respected the Senators' advise-and-consent role, said it is time to send the nomination to the Senate floor for a vote that will, as she put it, hopefully send Mr. Bolton to the United Nations.
United Nations reform is a key issue for Brazil, which is campaigning along with Germany, India and Japan for a permanent seat on an expanded Security Council.
Ms. Rice has referred to Brazil on her current trip as a regional power with a growing global presence but has not committed the United States to supporting its Security Council bid, saying the issue requires more study.
The talks here also covered the stalled effort to set up a hemispheric free-trade zone and the recent political unrest in Ecuador.
A joint statement from Mr. Rice's meeting with Brazilian counterpart Foreign Minister Celso Amorim reaffirmed support for last week's Organization of American States resolution encouraging all Ecuadorean factions to respect democratic order and a constitutional framework.
They also urged the international community to remain engaged in Haiti, and said the contribution of the Brazilian-led U.N. peacekeeping mission there is indispensable.
Ms. Rice delivers a policy speech in Brasilia Wednesday before flying on to Bogota and talks with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. She goes later this week to Chile and El Salvador.