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US Ambassador to UN Defends Record

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton defended his record before a Senate panel Thursday, with just months left before his recess appointment to the world body expires. President Bush wants Bolton to remain at the U.N., and has called on the Senate to confirm him to the post.

President Bush last year was forced to bypass the Senate and appoint John Bolton to the United Nations during a congressional recess after Democrats and one key Republican blocked the nomination amid concerns that he was too confrontational and reports he sought to pressure intelligence analysts.

Bolton's appointment expires in January. The Bush administration would like to see him continue at the U.N. at a time when there are multiple foreign policy concerns on its agenda - Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and North Korea, to name a few.

Senator John Warner, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, echoed those sentiments during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination.

"I do believe without any reservation whatsoever that the Senate will and should give that advice and consent to this nominee because he becomes an integral part of the president's national security team at a time when our nation is faced with these many complex issues," he said.

But Democrats remain united in their opposition to Bolton, arguing that he mismanaged U.N. reform efforts and negotiations on a new U.N. human rights council, and alienated ambassadors from countries that are crucial to solving problems in the Middle East and Asia.

"My objection is not that he is a bully, but that he has been an ineffective bully," said Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

Despite the Democrats' opposition, it appears the committee will approve Bolton's nomination and send it to the full Senate for a vote after the August recess. What makes this possible is a change of heart from the one Republican who opposed the nominee last year.

Senator George Voinovich of Ohio says he has been impressed with Bolton's work at the U.N.

"I think you have been very, very active in working on consensus to get things done in the United Nations," he said.

For his part, Ambassador Bolton sought to make the case for his confirmation. He denied recent news reports quoting U.N. diplomats saying he has furthered U.S. isolation at the world body and undercut U.S.-backed efforts to reform U.N. bureaucracy.

"In my daily relationship with ambassadors, I treat them with respect and they treat me with respect and I think we get the job done," Bolton said.

The hearing was interrupted several times, including when the ceiling sprung a leak and water began pouring down in front of the nominee.

Earlier, protesters twice disrupted proceedings until they were escorted out by police. "He should not go to the U.N.! He is not representing our best interests," they said.

Ambassador Bolton addressed a number of concerns before the U.N. Security Council, including Lebanon.

"We are working closely with other members to ensure that appropriate action is taken by the Council. Any action we take must recognize the current conflict is a direct result of the terrorist acts of Hezbollah and Hamas, and their state sponsors in Iran and Syria," Bolton said.

Bolton called the deaths of civilians tragic, and urged Israel to exercise what he called the greatest possible care in its use of force.

He expressed optimism that the Security Council would agree to a resolution requiring Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons, although he made his comments shortly before the Council announced it would delay consideration of the measure.

Bolton also said the United States is committed to establishing a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur, Sudan by the end of the year.