Transcript: U.N. Amb. John Bolton on 'FNS'

Written by Chris Wallace / Published July 23, 2006 / Fox News Sunday

The following is a partial transcript of the July 23, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" GUEST HOST BRIT HUME: For more now on efforts to resolve this conflict, we're joined from our New York studios by the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome. Good morning.

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS JOHN BOLTON: Glad to be here.

HUME: Let me ask you first about what may be a development of some consequence. The Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Meqdad says this morning, quote, "Syria is ready for dialogue with the United States based on respect and mutual interest."

He said a solution to the crisis lies in an immediate cease-fire brokered by international powers followed by diplomacy. Does that move the ball at all, Mr. Ambassador?

BOLTON: It's hard to see. I mean, Syria doesn't need dialogue to know what they need to do. They need to lean on Hezbollah to get them to release the two captured Israeli soldiers and stop the launch of rockets against innocent Israeli civilians.

Syria, along with Iran, is really part of the problem because of their longtime support for Hezbollah and other armed groups inside Lebanon. So I don't know what that adds necessarily, although I suppose it's better than nothing.

HUME: Well, does it provide a — I mean, is there any reason why this message that you've just delivered on this program shouldn't be delivered to the Syrians by some American representative face to face?

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BOLTON: Well, we have an embassy in Damascus. And I think the Syrians have gotten the message — or they should have gotten the message unmistakably that their continued aid and support of Hezbollah, their refusal to carry out security resolution — Security Council Resolution 1559 to get all of their intelligence personnel out of Lebanon, allow the new democratic government there to function, to cooperate with the international investigation into the assassination of former prime minister — Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri — if the Syrians would do all the things they already know they're supposed to do, that would be a major step forward.

HUME: So, to your knowledge, there's been no direct discussions by any American officials with the Syrian government.

BOLTON: I'm not aware of any. But as I say, we have an embassy in Damascus.

HUME: Right.

BOLTON: They could pick up the phone.

HUME: Let me ask you about Secretary Rice's mission. She's going, I guess, first to Israel and then on to other points over there. What's the purpose? What would constitute success for her mission?

BOLTON: Well, I don't think you can really measure it in those kinds of terms. What she wants to do is speak to important leaders on the ground. There will be a conference in Rome of a Middle East core group including a number of Arab countries on Wednesday.

What we're trying to do here is put together the elements for a sustained solution to the problem, at least between Lebanon and Israel, to strengthen the government of Lebanon, to eliminate the Hezbollah terrorist threat which threatens both innocent civilians of Lebanon as well as Israel, and not to rush into anything precipitously.

The worst result here would be a partial solution that returns us to this kind of problem again in a matter of weeks or months. We've got to think of the longer term here. There may be an opportunity. We need to go about it in a sustained fashion.

HUME: You mentioned that there's an effort here to strengthen the Lebanese government. I suspect that the Lebanese government would probably argue this morning that this bombing campaign, whatever its other effects and purposes, has probably not strengthened that government.

The speaker there of the Lebanese parliament, Nabi Berri, someone we've all known forever, is saying today — announced that Hezbollah has consented that the Lebanese government would deal with negotiations with a third party and Israel on a prisoner exchange. Does that sound like that could go anywhere?

BOLTON: Well, it's nice that Hezbollah has finally acknowledged who the real government of Lebanon is. Perhaps that's a step forward. What we want to try and do — and it's difficult in these circumstances to be sure, but what we want to do is come out of this situation strengthening the legitimate government of Lebanon, the democratically elected government, not this state-within-a-state that Hezbollah constitutes.

And I think that's really one of the main areas that Secretary Rice wants to focus on, how to get full implementation of Resolution 1559, how to help the government of Lebanon extend their sovereign control over all of Lebanese territory, including southern Lebanon.

HUME: How concerned are you that this military campaign has damaged Lebanon, damaged its economy, and perhaps inevitably weakened the Lebanese government, which was none too strong to begin with?

BOLTON: Well, two things. First, we have been in constant touch with the government of Israel to urge them to consider the consequences of the military actions. And I think as a responsible democratic government itself, the government of Israel is doing that.

There is a crying need at this point to open humanitarian corridors into Lebanon. The government of Israel very quickly responded affirmatively to the U.N. secretary's request to do that at the end of the week.

We're certainly working with Israel and Lebanon and the U.N. to get that to happen as soon as possible, to minimize the adverse effects on the innocent civilians in Lebanon.

HUME: Let me ask you about that U.N. presence. You've had that U.N. garrison, sort of a sad little garrison, up there on the border with Israel now since, I guess, some time back in the '70s. There you can see the watchtower there and the U.N. flag sort of flying in the breeze. It hasn't done very much.

Was it ever contemplated that it would be an enforcer of U.N. Resolution 1559, which, as you've indicated, was to police — or was a command that foreign forces of all kinds leave Lebanon and also that the Hezbollah attacks on Israel stop?

BOLTON: Well, the U.N. force that's there now really does not have the mandate to do it, and here's an interesting little fact. That force is called the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon. It was sent there on an interim basis in 1978, 28 years ago. So it's been a long interim and I think, sadly, has not been successful.

That's one reason why we need to look at the long-term possibilities of a sustained solution here, not another 28-year-long interim force, but to take the circumstances we find and see if we can't build the foundations for a really lasting peace this time.

HUME: What sort of a force would that be? You heard Jennifer Griffin's report indicating that the Israeli government is looking for something like NATO, which does have some history to be able to fight, to come in there. Is that something you'd advocate at the U.N.?

BOLTON: Well, we're certainly prepared to look at a range of options. I think the first thing you have to do is get the — outline the shape of what the political solution would be, and that includes most particularly the disarming of Hezbollah.

If it wants to be a political party, it needs to act like a political party and not have in its arsenal things like antiship cruise missiles. Most political parties don't have that kind of weaponry.

But we need to find out exactly how to put together a stable long-term solution. Then we can begin to look at what the configuration of a force will be.

What we really want to do is further carry out Resolution 1559 to strengthen the institutions of the government of Lebanon, to assist, in this case, the Lebanese armed forces to be able to assert their authority over all of Lebanese territory.

And I think you don't want a multilateral force that usurps that role. You want a multilateral presence, an international presence that strengthens the Lebanese government's ability to control all of its territory.

HUME: How satisfied are you that this Israeli attack and the way that it's going forward, with only apparently a limited ground campaign and heavy bombardment, will succeed in its objective of severely weakening, if not crippling, Hezbollah militarily?

BOLTON: You know, I don't think I'm in a position to second- guess that. I think the issue for us in the political and diplomatic field now is to try to take this forward in a way that we don't find ourselves in a matter of weeks or months with this situation repeated.

Israel has lived under the threat of terrorist attack by Hezbollah for a long, long time. And I think the latest provocations, the unwarranted kidnaping of two Israeli soldiers, the indiscriminate raining of rockets down on Israeli civilian towns and settlements in northern Israel, has finally led Israel to the conclusion that it's time to deal with the problem effectively.

And from a political point of view, we want to carry that forward to get a foundation for a sustained solution.

HUME: Iran is now saying once again that its response to the package of incentives and disincentives that's been offered on its nuclear program will be answered on August 22nd. That's a date that they've been talking about for a long time, which this government has previously suggested was too little, too late, or at least too late.

It appears that the Hezbollah attack may, at least in terms of the news coverage and so on, have distracted attention from Iran. Would it not be fair to say that this is working out rather well for Iran at the moment?

BOLTON: Well, Iran has been very good over the past three years or four years in throwing sand in the eyes of people trying to deal with their long-term pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.

Right now in the Security Council, we're trying to carry out the decision of the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the council to impose on Iran a mandatory requirement that they suspend their uranium enrichment activities.

HUME: Consequences would be what if they didn't?

BOLTON: And if they fail to do that, then the council, pursuant to the agreement that the foreign ministers have already reached, will begin to impose sanctions on Iran...

HUME: What sort?

BOLTON: ... and further isolate them internationally.

HUME: What kind of sanctions?

BOLTON: We're looking now at targeted sanctions that would go after financial transactions, the Iranian weapons program and others.

But you know, the sanctions won't only take place through the Security Council. There are various kinds of financial measures that we can and have been applying more robustly to pressure the Iranian government to give up this nuclear weapons program.

HUME: One other thing, Mr. Ambassador. George Voinovich, the Republican senator from Ohio, had been a strong opponent of your nomination, has now turned around and said that having had a lot of commerce with you since you've been in the job, that he thinks you're doing well at it, and he's prepared to vote for you the nomination — your resubmitted nomination will be heard by the Senate, I guess, this week, or at least the Foreign Relations Committee.

Apart from Voinovich, I know Senator Biden, who was a critic, remains one. Do you have a sense that there are others who are now prepared to change their tune and allow your nomination to come for a vote?

BOLTON: Well, I think Senator Voinovich's announcement was — obviously, I much appreciated it, and I think it represents a fairly dramatic change in the political dynamic in the Senate.

All of the Republicans, I think, are now supportive, and I think a number of Democrats will be as well. So we'll do this one step at a time, have a hearing this coming Thursday and see what happens after that.

HUME: So as far as you know, you can't identify any other switches on the question of whether it should come to a vote.

BOLTON: I think the main thing is allowing the nomination to come to a vote on the floor of the Senate, and then people can vote how they wish.

The problem last year, of course, was we couldn't get a vote at all. I'm hoping we can avoid that this time and let there be a vote on the floor.

HUME: Ambassador John Bolton, it was very kind of you to come in this morning. Thank you, sir.

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