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Senate Panel Postpones Bolton Vote

A Senate committee delayed until next week a vote on John R. Bolton (search) to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations after Democrats asked for more time to consider the nomination.

Committee Democrats, who are united in opposing Bolton, want to question State Department officials in writing about the undersecretary of state, said Andy Fisher, spokesman for the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

Deferring a vote, which had tentatively been planned for Thursday, would give Democrats more time to try to persuade a moderate Republican, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (search) of Rhode Island, to defect to their side. Chafee has said he is inclined to vote for Bolton but has not made a flat statement that he definitely would support confirmation.

Republicans have a 10-8 edge in the committee. A tie vote could block a recommendation to the Senate to approve Bolton, whose managerial style and criticism of the U.N. have come under attack in two days of committee hearings.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected, meanwhile, testimony by a former State Department intelligence chief, Carl Ford Jr. (search), that Bolton was a "serial abuser" of lower-level officials who challenged his analyses of other countries' weapons programs.

"That is certainly not the John Bolton I know," she said at a State Department news conference.

Describing Bolton as an effective diplomat, she called for prompt Senate action on his nomination, saying the United States needs to have an ambassador in place in New York.

Rice, in response to a question, said she believed "in the right of dissent" within the department. But she said once there was a decision it should be supported across-the-board.