- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

Inevitably Bolton

The Democrats have come to accept the inevitability that John R. Bolton will be the next U.S. representative at the United Nations, but they don’t like it.

“I think the president could have nominated a number of people — conservative, Republican — who would have been confirmed unanimously,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said last week, citing John Danforth, former Republican senator from Missouri and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. last year.

Mr. Leahy, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the lack of enthusiasm of lawmakers will ultimately undermine Mr. Bolton, the blunt-spoken disarmament specialist whose hard-line reputation precedes him.

“He’ll be confirmed by the tiniest of margins, and it sends a message to the rest of the world that he does not have the support he needs,” Mr. Leahy told reporters after a private visit with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

“But that’s a decision made by the president and supported by the leadership of the Senate.” A vote on Mr. Bolton could come this week.

Swede to preside

Today at the United Nations, the General Assembly will formally elect Swedish Ambassador Jan Eliasson as president of the 191-member body, who has the unanimous support of Western Europe for the rotating job.

And in Vienna, Austria, Mohamed ElBaradei will win a third term as director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The 62-year-old Egyptian faced no competition for the job, which is a large part of the reason Washington swallowed its objection to another five-year term for him in that post.

U.S. officials have said publicly that they object to any senior U.N. official serving more than two terms, a limit they said is widely embraced by management-oriented governments that foot the largest share of U.N. expenses.

None of Washington’s allies were willing to join the fray and, without a viable competitor, the matter was dropped. In Washington, Mr. ElBaradei’s “soft” position on Iran, coupled with his prewar skepticism that then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was building a nuclear arsenal, cost him valuable support.

The governing board of the IAEA is expected to re-elect him unanimously this morning.

Mr. Eliasson, on the other hand, has strong relations with Washington after serving five years as Sweden’s ambassador to the United States. He will move to New York in July and take his seat on the towering green marble General Assembly podium in September.

A former Swedish foreign minister, Mr. Eliasson knows the United Nations well. He represented Sweden here in the late 1980s, and later served four years as U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

Nigerian appointed

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Gambari has been appointed to head the U.N. department of political affairs, a key advisory office in the U.N. Secretariat. Mr. Gambari, a former Nigerian foreign minister and U.N. ambassador, has served as Mr. Annan’s adviser on Africa for the last five years.

The appointment marks the first time in recent history that this political post, usually filled by the British, has gone to an African. Some diplomats said it is appropriate that an African should fill a job that spends so much energy monitoring and mediating conflicts on the continent.

The political-affairs department maintains a worldwide staff of advisers and also provides election assistance to transitional countries.

Mr. Gambari succeeds Kieran Prendergast, a Briton initially tapped to be Mr. Annan’s special envoy to the Middle East. The Bush administration is said to have objected to his appointment, particularly after Mr. Prendergast’s opposition to the Iraq war.

Mr. Gambari, 61, will serve until December 2006, when Mr. Annan’s term as secretary-general will ends.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at unear@aol.com.

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