- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2005

NEW YORK — In the weeks after John C. Danforth resigned as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, rumors that John R. Bolton might replace him sparked dismay among some U.N. diplomats. Could the White House have the nerve, they asked, to appoint the renowned U.N. critic to the post?

So when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced last Monday that Mr. Bolton was her choice for the job, the mood among some U.N. staff was disbelief.

Yet the pulling of hair might be premature. Although Mr. Bolton is known for his gruffness and occasional outbursts, the United Nations already has plenty of diplomats who share those qualities. Diplomats who know Mr. Bolton say he is a man with whom they can work.

“We had very good cooperation with him in the field of disarmament, so we know this colleague very well,” Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alexander Konuzin said Tuesday of the State Department’s arms control chief. “So we welcome his nomination — no problems with us.”

China’s ambassador, Wang Guangya, reported having “several contacts” with Mr. Bolton and called the appointment “interesting.”

“Certainly, we will respect the choice that this government has made, and certainly myself, I think I can work together with a character like Bolton,” he said. “We have different views, but also we have many things in common.”

Since Mr. Bolton’s nomination was announced, comments he made against the United Nations have received plenty of attention — particularly a remark in 1994, when he said it wouldn’t make a “bit of difference” if the United Nations lost the top 10 stories from its 39-story headquarters.

But for all the focus on anti-U.N. rhetoric, Mr. Bolton has worked with the body more than many diplomats have before arriving here, most notably as the deputy U.N. envoy for Western Sahara under Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

In announcing Mr. Bolton’s nomination last Monday, Miss Rice played up his hard-nosed image, calling him a “tough-minded diplomat” who “knows how to get things done.”

She suggested that he would help effect change this year as the United Nations tackles the thorny issue of reforming itself.

He won’t be alone. There are plenty of tough talkers with reform-focused agendas — Germany, Japan, Brazil and India among them. As a permanent member of the Security Council, Mr. Bolton will spend many hours surrounded by his fellow ambassadors, many of whom arrived with distinguished resumes of their own.

If he doesn’t already know it, which seems unlikely, he also will find that the most intractable disagreements here are sometimes resolved in backroom meetings away from the spotlight.

“When you’re outside the United Nations, you can always have very strong views, and then when you join the United Nations and interact with diplomats like us, then you change your views,” said U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Baali of Algeria. “We will certainly have interesting discussions.”

Outside the U.N. Secretariat, opinion among observers was occasionally breathless.

“Bolton as U.N. ambassador: The fox is in the henhouse,” fretted Citizens for Global Solutions, a Washington-based anti-war advocacy group and longtime foe of Mr. Bolton.

“Bush nominee for United Nations ambassador is an excellent selection,” said the Freedom Alliance, a Virginia-based group that promotes American sovereignty and a strong defense policy.

The United Nations has come under heat from members of Congress who have cited accusations of corruption and mismanagement in the oil-for-food program in Iraq and a sex-abuse scandal involving U.N. peacekeepers in Congo.

Among staff willing to go on the record, diplomacy was the order of the day.

U.N. associate spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters last week: “We have nothing against people who do hold us accountable. On the contrary, I think we do want to be held accountable.”

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also wouldn’t bite.

“It is a president’s prerogative to name his ambassadors,” he told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “I have worked well with all previous representatives from the U.S., and I look forward to working with Mr. Bolton.”

Asked whether he thought the appointment was a hostile act by President Bush, Mr. Annan laughed and said, “I’m not sure I want to be drawn on that one.”

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