Bush Accepts Bolton's U.N. Resignation

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer

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WASHINGTON — Lacking the votes to keep his job, embattled U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said Monday he would resign, a defeat for a chagrined President Bush who had clung to hopes of Senate confirmation.

Bolton got the position in August 2005, appointed by Bush when Congress was in recess. With that temporary assignment about to expire, and his long fight for confirmation going nowhere, Bolton made it official.

He handed in a resignation letter that did not mention the political fight behind it. It said simply: "I have concluded that my service in your administration should end when the current recess appointment expires."

"I accepted. I'm not happy about it," Bush said Monday afternoon in the Oval Office, with Bolton at his side. Bush did not name a replacement, and officials offered no timetable for an announcement.

The setback for the White House seemed to put a hold on the postelection talk of bipartisanship.

Bush considered Bolton a strong voice as the U.N. dealt with crises in Iraq, Lebanon, North Korea and other complex matters around the world. Bolton also pushed the administration's effort to reform the United Nations.

But Democrats opposed Bolton, whom they viewed as a brusque, ill-suited diplomat. Some Republicans helped scuttle his nomination, including moderate Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

The president had stinging words for them.

"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 in a statement. "This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country."

Democrats, though, said Bolton's resignation signaled a fresh start.

"Hopefully this change marks a shift from the failed go-it-alone strategies that have left America less safe," said the incoming Senate majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada.

"With the Middle East on the verge of chaos and the nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea increasing, we need a United Nations ambassador who has the full support of Congress and can help rally the international community to tackle the serious threats we face," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Bolton's nomination had languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a year. The White House made a renewed push for him after Democrats won control of Congress in November.

But it became clear that "there were not going to be the votes" to get the nomination out of committee, said White House spokesman Tony Snow. He suggested the entire confirmation process was broken.

"If bipartisanship is to succeed, perhaps we ought to make sure that people who serve their country ably and well are sent the signal that 'Your services will be treasured,'" Snow said.

Bolton, a 57-year-old arms control expert, came to the job with a reputation for brilliance, obstinacy and speaking his mind _ and with a mission to reform the 61-year-old world body born in the ashes of World War II.

By his own account, Bolton remains frustrated that "precious little" reform has been accomplished so far by the U.N. General Assembly, though some diplomats would at least partly blame Bolton's blunt tactics.

But Bolton did play a key role in major U.S. foreign policy initiatives _ getting U.N. Security Council approval of resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea for conducting a nuclear test, joining with France to promote Lebanon's democratic government, pushing for a U.N. peacekeeping force in Sudan's conflict-wracked Darfur region and putting Myanmar's repressive military regime on the council's agenda.

Bolton has had strained relations with many in the U.N. Secretariat, led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"I think Ambassador Bolton did the job he was expected to do," Annan said Monday. "He came at a time when we had lots of tough issues from reform to issues on Iran and North Korea. I think as a representative of the U.S. government, he pressed ahead with the instructions he had been given."

Republicans blamed the Democrats for Bolton's ouster.

"It also unfairly undermines President Bush's prerogative to appoint his own people to his team," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "There's no doubt Bolton is extremely qualified and has done tremendous work."

Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily, circumventing a Congress in recess in 2005. Under that process, the appointment expires when Congress formally adjourns, no later than early January.

While Bush could not give Bolton another recess appointment, the White House was believed to be exploring other ways of keeping him in the job, perhaps by giving him a title other than ambassador. But Bolton told the White House he intended to leave, period.

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Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this story.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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