SAN FRANCISCO – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) acknowledged Friday that John R. Bolton (search) has "rough edges" but said it was time for the Senate to approve his nomination to be U.N. ambassador so he can promote needed reform.
A day after Democrats forced the Republican-run Senate to delay a vote on Bolton until at least next month, Rice called him a "pretty tough person" but added, "There are many people who work for him who would walk through a wall for him."
Bolton has been accused of bullying intelligence officials whose analyses ran counter to his conservative views. His defenders have said he did not mistreat them and is entitled to disagree with intelligence estimates he receives.
Answering questions at the Commonwealth Club (search) during a long weekend trip here, Rice cited the U.N. Human Rights Commission as a key example of why the world body needs an overhaul.
"When you have a commission on human rights and Sudan is on it, nobody can take it seriously," Rice said, referring to a country the Bush administration has accused of engaging in genocide.
"We need to send a strong voice for reform of the United Nations to the United Nations," Rice said.
Democrats have demanded that before the Senate votes on Bolton's nomination, the administration show lawmakers documents on his use of government intelligence on Syria (search). They also want documents about instances in which he requested names of U.S. officials whose communications were secretly picked up by an American spy agency.
Shortly after Rice started speaking, three protesters stood up wearing black robes and black hoods and their arms outstretched at their sides, an apparent reference to U.S. abuse of detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison (search).
The crowd applauded as the protesters, shouting their opposition to the war in Iraq, were taken from the hall.
Rice seemed undisturbed by the interruption.
"In Baghdad, Kabul and soon in Beirut, they too will be able to speak their minds," she said.
About a hundred protestors demonstrated outside Davies Symphony Hall (search), where Rice spoke.
On Iraq, Rice said that country's democracy "is not going to look like the United States of America, but it's not going to look like Saddam's Iraq. And thank God for that, because it was time to get that monster out of the center of Baghdad."
She acknowledged that Iraq's fledging democratic government has had difficulties, and that it is not unusual for historical changes to result in violence. But she added that to date, the Baghdad leadership has not made a compromise "as bad as the one in 1789 that made my ancestors three-fifths of a man, so let's be humble about what they're going through."
Rice was referring to a constitutional compromise in which originally, three-fifths of a state's slaves were counted in deciding the state's representation in Congress and other issues.
Asked about the prospects for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, she said President Bush believes that step can be taken only after success has been achieved.
"It would not be a good thing to leave before this job is finished," she said.
On Iran, Rice said it would be an "enormously dangerous" situation if Iran were to become a nuclear weapons state.
"We're going to do everything we can to prevent that outcome," she said, adding that Iran "is very much out of step" with trends in the region.
Iranian officials said this week that their country would not develop nuclear weapons and would continue a moratorium on uranium enrichment activities.
Rice has a long association with the San Francisco area, having served as provost at nearby Stanford University (search) before joining the Bush administration in 2001.