Bush Names Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to UN

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday chose John Bolton, a blunt-spoken conservative known for his sharp skepticism of the United Nations and international diplomacy, as the new U.S. ambassador to the world organization.

Administration officials said his appointment would strengthen efforts to hold the UN to effective standards. But the nomination brought expressions of concern from many diplomats speaking on the condition that they not be identified by name or country, many of whom noted that Bolton had been scathing in his criticism of the UN.

"He is a tough-minded diplomat, he has a strong record of success and he has a proven track record of effective multilateralism," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at the State Department in making the announcement. "Through history, some of our best ambassadors have been those with the strongest voices, ambassadors like Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, informed by Rice of the appointment on Monday morning, said through a spokesman that he looked forward to working with Bolton.

Bolton, 56, is a lawyer who has worked in federal government, mostly in the State Department, for most of the past 25 years. For the past four, he has served as under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs.

Now, his elevation would put him in perhaps the most visible diplomatic job outside that of Rice.

As examples of his record on diplomacy, Rice cited the Treaty of Moscow, which reduces nuclear warhead stocks while permitting an antimissile system; nuclear negotiations with Libya; and the Proliferation Security Initiative, which seeks to stop the shipment of dangerous arms.

The nomination brought strong praise from many Republicans and conservatives. "He's been our man at the State Department," said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, adding that he used to joke that Bolton was in charge of the department's "American desk."

Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, called Bolton an "outstanding candidate" for the UN job.

Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, expressed caution, however. "We need alliances; we need friends," he said, adding that while reforming the United Nations was important, "to go up there and kick the UN around doesn't get the job done."

Even within the Bush administration, some said they were surprised that Bolton, who only last fall angered a room full of diplomats when he spoke disdainfully of the European effort to negotiate with Iran, was picked for such a sensitive job.

While the diplomats and administration insiders who raised questions did so anonymously because of the sensitivity of the nomination, in the Senate, where he will have to be confirmed, Democrats publicly criticized the appointment. Some Republicans predicted he might have difficulty winning confirmation.

"This is a disappointing choice and one that sends all the wrong signals," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader.

Bolton, a former protege of Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, once said "if the UN secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference" and "there's no such thing as the United Nations."

An aide to one ambassador at the UN Security Council said his boss considered the nomination "a disaster," but added: "The real question is what is Bolton's mission. Does he come here to attack the institution, or does he really come here to help the UN?"

Within the administration, Bolton was known as the State Department's chief skeptic about efforts to negotiate an end to the twin crises posed by Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs. He has also criticized any effort to work with the International Criminal Court.

During a sensitive moment in talks with North Korea in August 2003, he described Kim Jong Il, the North's leader, as a "tyrannical dictator" of a place where "life is a hellish nightmare." North Korea then labeled him "human scum" that it would refuse to deal with.

One administration official said, however, that even though Bolton was "confrontational and in your face," he had won the admiration of critics because of his effectiveness.

During Bush's first term, Bolton worked closely, though not always easily, with Secretary of State Colin Powell. He was closer in his views to Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

A top Republican foreign policy official close to the administration said that it was well understood that Bolton might alienate Europeans, but that Cheney had pushed for him for the UN job.

Rice noted that Bolton had been an assistant secretary of state for international organizations 15 years ago, serving as a liaison with the UN and helping to press for repeal of the resolution that equated Zionism and racism.