Bolton Begins Work At U.N.

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John Bolton presented his credentials Tuesday as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a job which will challenge him to work with diplomats from 190 nations in a place he has called irrelevant.

"Glad to be here," the controversial diplomat told before handing over his letter of appointment five months after he was nominated by President Bush.

The two exchanged greetings and then held a brief private meeting. Bolton entered and left U.N. headquarters smiling and waving, but staying uncharacteristically mum.

The 56-year-old arms control expert with a reputation for brilliance, obstinacy and speaking his mind arrived just weeks before a summit in which world leaders will seek to adopt sweeping changes to enable the U.N. to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Bolton will be thrust into intense negotiations on contentious issues ranging from Security Council reform and poverty alleviation to stepping up the global fight against terrorism and improving U.N. management.

"He will be one of the key players because the United States is the largest contributor and a great power in the Security Council," Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said. "There are conflicting views on nearly every issue that is on our plate for the reform, and the largest player in the U.N., of course, plays a key role."

Many U.N. diplomats say Bolton will be judged on his performance here, not on his past, which features sharp criticism of the world body and resistance to his appointment as U.S. ambassador.

"No one should make prejudgments on reputation," said Chile's U.N. Ambassador Heraldo Munoz. "One must do it on the merit of the facts, when we see what happens here."

The fact that Bolton failed twice to win Senate confirmation, forcing Mr. Bush to appoint him Monday after Congress adjourned for the summer, was also unlikely to have an impact, diplomats said.

"He's a colleague like any other and will be received as such," said Denmark's U.N. Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj, who noted that in many countries no confirmation of ambassadors is required.

Annan said Monday he looks forward to working with Bolton, in the same way that he works with ambassadors from the other U.N. member states.

The Bush administration says a tough-talking Bolton is ideally suited to lead an effort to overhaul the U.N. bureaucracy and make it more accountable. But Annan cautioned that negotiation and compromise are keys to success at the United Nations.

"I think it is all right for one ambassador to come and push, but an ambassador always has to remember that there are 190 others who will have to be convinced, or a vast majority of them, for action to take place," Annan said.

In Washington, CBS News National Political Correspondent Gloria Borger says she doubts the recess appointment of Bolton will spill over into President Bush's other high-profile nomination battle - over Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

"I think the Democrats were angry about John Bolton," Borger said. "But don't forget John Bolton's former colleagues testified against him in the Senate. They said that he was an ideologue, that he didn't treat his peers very well, that he didn't treat the people who worked with him very well, that he cherry-picked and manipulated intelligence to get the ends that he wanted.

"John Roberts is a very different kind of nominee; somebody who comes with great recommendations from his peers. There will be fights over documents, but I think John Roberts is a very different kind of fight."

Bolton's past comments about the United Nations and his intimation that the United States can pull the strings have also not been forgotten, and will likely make some U.N. members wary.

In 1994, Bolton said it wouldn't make a "bit of difference" if the top 10 floors of the United Nations — which include the secretary-general's office — vanished from the 39-story headquarters building.

In the same speech, he said there is "no such thing as the United Nations," just "an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that is the United States."

Diplomats said Bolton's first test will come very quickly in whether he plays a positive role in helping make the September summit a success.

With just over six weeks left to produce a document that all 191 U.N. member states support, negotiations are heating up on many issues: expanding the Security Council, creating a new Peacebuilding Commission, revamping the U.N.'s human rights machinery, defining terrorism, protecting civilians facing war crimes and genocide, and overhauling the Secretariat.

"I think this is a time when it is make or break as far as the future relevance of the United Nations is concerned," Pleuger said.
  • Scott Benjamin

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