Monday, January 22, 2007

Bolton returns

John R. Bolton has left the United Nations and, apparently, the government as well. But you can still hear his refreshingly blunt views on the world body, Iran, North Korea, Israel, Iraq and pretty much anything else. Of course, now it will cost you.

Mr. Bolton is the latest star to sign on with the Washington Speakers Bureau (WSB), a for-profit talent booking firm that books speakers such as former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, entrepreneur Donald Trump, George Bush impersonator Steve Bridges, sports hall-of-famers and best-selling business authors.

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations “provides a lucid and candid survey of world trouble-spots, discussing U.S. economic and security interests in these regions and identifying where the next areas of concern could potentially arise,” according to his blurb on the WSB Web site. “Bolton also discusses how these areas of unrest could influence the political landscape in the U.S.”

Mr. Bolton, a plain-spoken and untamed conservative who delighted in sassing his diplomatic colleagues and sparring with the press as U.N. ambassador, undoubtedly will give convention organizers their money’s worth.

WSB declined to say what it will charge for a couple of hours of Mr. Bolton’s time, but sources familiar with the speakers’ circuit said it probably was in the $30,000-plus range.

Eye on U.S.

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine what former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton, a fierce defender of U.S. sovereignty and no fan of the new U.N. Human Rights Council, would say about the upcoming U.S. visit by Martin Scheinin, the HRC’s special rapporteur on counterterrorism laws.

Mr. Scheinin, a constitutional law scholar and human rights specialist from Finland, requested permission to visit the United States to monitor how human rights are affected by recent anti-terrorism legislation. A visit is tentatively scheduled for late May.

“I look forward to having an open and constructive dialogue with the government, the judiciary, lawyers, security and law-enforcement personnel, nongovernment organizations, civil society and all other relevant actors in order to study and discuss U.S. counterterrorism laws, policies and practices,” Mr. Scheinin said.

“I intend to examine, in depth, issues regarding the detention, arrest and trial of terrorist suspects and the rights of victims of terrorism or persons negatively impacted by counterterrorism measures,” he said.

Human rights specialists on capital punishment, freedom of religion, Internet child pornography and women have visited the United States in recent years.

World traveler

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon leaves Wednesday for his first international trip, a 10-day swing that will take him to Paris (a pledging conference for Lebanon’s reconstruction); Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (an African Union summit, where he will push for international peacekeeping efforts in the Darfur region of Sudan and in Somalia); to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (to review peacekeeping action).

While he is gone, the U.N. bureaucracy is likely to issue a collective sigh of relief: Advisers to Mr. Ban say he will not make or announce any personnel changes while on the road, because he will be focusing on the work at hand.

But staff on the 38th floor, which is already starting to reflect the new boss, will continue to work on the complex task of selecting personnel for department heads and other key posts. Contracts for the 60-odd assistant secretaries-general and undersecretaries-general expire at the end of February.

“My intention is to finish, if possible, all the appointments at one time,” Mr. Ban told reporters last week, raising the tantalizing image of moving vans lumbering through the U.N. compound’s gates and circling the fountain where black limousines usually idle.

• Betsy Pisik may be reached via e-mail at

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