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Bolton Resigns as UN Ambassador After Stormy Tenure During Term

By Helene Cooper


President Bush reluctantly accepted the resignation of the UN Ambassador, John R. Bolton, on Monday, conceding that the envoy could not win Senate confirmation and signaling that the administration was unwilling to make another end-run around congressional opponents in order to keep Bolton in his job.

Ending more than a year of controversy surrounding the blunt-spoken ambassador, Bush issued a strongly worded statement excoriating Bolton’s opponents on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for refusing to send his nomination to the Senate floor for a vote.

“They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time,” Bush said. “This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation.”

Bush went on to praise Bolton, a fiery conservative and longtime critic of the United Nations, thanking him for his “advocacy of human rights and human dignity.”

Despite the president’s strong words, administration officials had largely given up on Bolton’s confirmation last month, after Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he would not support it.

It was not immediately clear who would replace Bolton. The leading candidate appeared to be the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has told colleagues he is ready to leave Baghdad. Others said to be in the running are Richard S. Williamson, former ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights, Sen. Mike DeWine, the Ohio Republican who lost his re-election bid, and R. Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs.

Bolton’s decision to step down brings to an end the stormy and controversial tenure of an ambassador whose confrontational style often conflicted with the understated ways of the United Nations.

To his critics, he was an abrasive proponent of a hard-line, conservative ideology at odds with the multilateral approach at the United Nations. But his supporters pointed to numerous successes: several Security Council resolutions, including measures seeking to slow or halt the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea and another ending the war in Lebanon and establishing a UN peacekeeping force there.

Chafee, who lost his Senate seat in last month’s elections, perhaps best captured the political reality that has engulfed Bolton since he took office in a recess appointment last year.

“The American people have spoken out against the president’s agenda on a number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy,” Chafee said last month.

Chafee’s decision might have been the end of the matter. But White House officials began exploring whether the president could somehow bypass the Senate to keep Bolton at the United Nations, perhaps by naming him to be Bush’s special envoy or to some other post that would not require Senate confirmation.