Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday she expects John R. Bolton, Washington's ambassador-designate to the United Nations, to lead an overdue shake-up of that organization.
"John Bolton was my first choice," Miss Rice told editors and reporters in an interview at The Washington Times.
"I think John is a straightforward, tough-talking, very good diplomat, and I think that's what you need at the United Nations."
Mr. Bolton has been an outspoken critic of the United Nations.
In 1994, he said in a speech that if "the U.N. Secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
Today, that remark is being widely circulated, especially on Capitol Hill, where some congressmen vow to challenge Mr. Bolton during the hearings and debate over his confirmation.
Opponents acknowledge, however, that they lack the votes to block his appointment.
Mr. Bolton's selection by President Bush for the Cabinet-level post comes as the United Nations confronts extensive criticism. It is being assailed for corruption in the Iraq oil-for-food program, its inability to enforce Security Council resolutions and sexual abuses by its peacekeepers.
U.N. leaders acknowledge that the organization has problems, and have pledged to improve it.
"You've got the whole U.N. operation saying it needs reform, and to have somebody who has thought about these issues, who is critical of many things about the U.N. about which, frankly, it is right to be critical" is useful, Miss Rice said.
Mr. Bolton, she said, is expected to "lead the effort" to reshape the world body, and he would do so as an integral part of the Bush administration.
Mr. Bolton served as undersecretary of state for arms control during the first Bush term and had been a candidate for deputy undersecretary of state. Miss Rice chose Robert Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative, for the State Department's No. 2 post.
The United Nations "is not an outpost in New York, it's an extremely important instrument of American policy, and I think [Mr. Bolton is] going to be great," Miss Rice said. "I expect to see [him] often."
Some Washington's foreign policy specialists criticized the Bolton appointment. "This nomination sends all the wrong signals," said Cliff Kupchan, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Nixon Center. "The U.S. needs friends and allies to achieve its national interests. John Bolton, in my view, prefers to avoid constraints on U.S. power, and his perspective is essentially unilateralist."
Miss Rice said Mr. Bolton's past experience as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and as assistant secretary for international organization affairs stands him in good stead.
He is, Miss Rice said, the person needed to help grapple with the challenges of how the United Nations is going to reform itself and remain relevant in the 21st century.
Yesterday, the State Department announced that Shirin Tahir-Kheli, a former Johns Hopkins University professor and a member of the White House National Security Council, has been appointed senior adviser to the secretary of state on U.N. reform. She would report directly to Miss Rice.