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U.N. Ambassador John Bolton on Mideast Turmoil

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 19, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes." Just earlier, we spoke to the United States ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: Thanks for being with us.

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

HANNITY: Oh, boy, world situation couldn't get any more difficult than it is right now, huh?

BOLTON: Well, it's pretty intense in the Middle East, but also with Iran and North Korea, you have two rogue states seeking nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capability, so there's a lot on our plate.

HANNITY: I want to start with the world reaction, the world condemnation — it seems almost knee-jerk now. If Israel is under fire, if Israeli soldiers are taken hostage, and Israel responds in kind, almost instantaneously we get this, "Israel must restrain itself, pull back." Our own State Department has done the same thing.

Why shouldn't the message be: Israel has the right to defend itself, and they probably are doing the world a favor if they remove Hezbollah?

BOLTON: I think President Bush and Secretary Rice have made it very clear in this context that Israel is exercising its legitimate right to self-defense, both with respect to the kidnapping in the Gaza Strip and to the kidnapping across the blue line from Lebanon, so that what we're trying to do now is allow a legitimate exercise of self-defense, while keeping in mind, particularly in the case of Lebanon, we want to help the fragile Lebanese democracy.

HANNITY: Because certainly I think it would be key, and I think it would help the democracy if Hezbollah was removed, correct?

BOLTON: Well, Hezbollah is like a state within a state. It's a cancer within Lebanon. What we want is to implement the framework established by Security Council Resolution 1559, which contemplates that the Lebanese government, which is now a legitimate, democratic government, will get full control over its territory, be able to exercise real sovereignty and not be at the mercy of armed militias like Hezbollah.

People see that what Hezbollah has done here, possibly with the approval of Syria and Iran, has done something that really could destabilize the entire region.

HANNITY: How do we win the war on terrorism without destroying two terror regimes, Syria and Iran? Is it possible?

BOLTON: I think that if you look at the support that Iran and Syria have given groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad that really the reckoning we need here is a reckoning, not just with the terrorist groups, but with the states that finance them.

Syria has an opportunity, if it forswears the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, stops sponsoring terrorism, they could have a different relationship with us.

We've given the offer to Iran that if they give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons, that we'd be open to a different relationship. And they've rejected us, so that's the situation we face.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: It's been reported — The Independent in London is reporting that the United States is basically giving Israel a week to get this done, after which it then might weigh in, calling for a cease-fire or weighing in on that issue. Is that something you've heard, something that you see happen?

BOLTON: I love reading the British press, and occasionally it's accurate. That doesn't have to be one of the instances. I think what we're trying to do here is explain that what Israel is doing is defending itself against terrorist attacks and doing what, frankly, we would do in a comparable situation, not just to respond tit-for-tat to the kidnapping, but to try and go to the root cause of the problem.

That said, there's no doubt that we value the democratically elected government of Lebanon. We don't want to see that damaged; in fact, we want to see it strengthened. And that's what we're trying to work on.

COLMES: Does Israel risk damaging — you know, a lot of members of the international community have been condemnatory, including the Vatican, which has asked Israel to tamp down. Are they wrong to say that? And is there a risk of too many incursions into Lebanon that destroy it?

BOLTON: You know, there's always a risk that something can be spun in a direction that it's not intended. But I do believe that, in many Arab countries, there's a real appreciation that groups like Hezbollah and Hamas don't really benefit the average citizen of their country, that they represent a threat. They're certainly not democratic organizations.

And I think the path is complex here, but if we keep in mind that we want to preserve democracy in Lebanon and allow the legitimate exercise of self-defense, there should be a way through this.

COLMES: Last Thursday, there was a Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire. Why did we veto that?

BOLTON: Well, that resolution dealt with the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip; it did not address the situation in Lebanon, so let's be clear on that. It dealt with the previous kidnapping by Hamas of an Israeli soldier.

And we felt at the time that the resolution was unbalanced, unfair, and missed the real point, which was that there were other issues that needed to be addressed before putting a cease-fire in place.

COLMES: You're quoted as having said it was out of date and would have inflamed passions. Can you explain that?

BOLTON: I think that the issue that we were facing there, watching the situation in southern Lebanon unfold, was that this resolution really addressed a situation that had been overtaken by events. We worked hard to try and make that resolution balanced and evenhanded. We didn't succeed. We tried to put the resolution off. The sponsors wanted a vote, so we did what we had to do and vetoed it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: Is the world at war with Islamic fascism?

BOLTON: Well, I think the Islamic fascists are at war with us. We have no interest in changing the way they live in their particular countries, to follow their own beliefs, but it's their aggressive use of terror and force, almost exclusively against innocent civilians, that's brought them into conflict with us.

And that's why, when we talk about what Israel is doing now, the right of self-defense is inherent in nationhood. If a government can't protect its citizens, then it's not fulfilling its most basic function.

HANNITY: The 9/11 Commission said they were at war with us and we weren't at war with them. Interestingly, you say they are at war with us. Are we, should we be at war with them? And do we need to defeat them?

BOLTON: I think President Bush has tried to make it clear in speeches ever since September 11 that we are in a long, global war against terrorism. And Americans are a very peaceful people. They don't like the idea of this kind of struggle, but we were able to maintain it in the Cold War for decades. I think we'll maintain it here, but we cannot lose our focus.

HANNITY: It's almost unimaginable, as we look through the prism of history, that we had such a high degree of appeasement for, for example, the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. There seems to be, Mr. Ambassador, this mysterious reluctance and resistance to identify the nature of this enemy that thinks they're doing God's will when they destroy innocence.

And you watch the call for restraint against Israel. It seems to me a fundamental lack of understanding about the enemy. Is there a modern-day appeasement going on worldwide? Are you seeing it at the U.N.?

BOLTON: I think that the culture of the U.N. is to seek peace almost at any cost, and that really does come down to appeasement. Now, the effort that we have to make is to say, when a country is exercising its legitimate right of self-defense, there's nothing impermissible about that.

HANNITY: But is the world defining peace as the absence of overt conflict? Isn't peace defined by the ability to defend yourself? For example, are we going to wait until we have a nuclear-armed Iran until we deal with a guy that denies the Holocaust and wants to annihilate Israel and wipe them off the face of the Earth?

BOLTON: Well, I think that's one reason President Bush has stressed, both in the case of Iran and in the case of North Korea, why we've got to deny the nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities these countries seek.

And in the case of Lebanon, living under the threat of terror, as the government of Israel has done for many years, is not an acceptable way to live. It's not an acceptable way to live for the people of Lebanon, who just want to have a normal country and don't want to have this cancerous Hezbollah armed militia in their country, as well.

COLMES: What has to happen here to make the U.N. an effective organization so people can actually say, "You know what? Here's an opportunity, here's where the U.N. really came in and did what we hoped the U.N., according to its mission, original mission, could accomplish"?

BOLTON: I think the cases of North Korea and Iran are really good examples of where the U.N. can provide a significant contribution. We passed a unanimous resolution last Saturday dealing with North Korea's launch of seven ballistic missiles. It's not a punitive resolution. It could have gone a lot farther. The North Koreans rejected it within 45 minutes.

We're now working on a resolution to make it mandatory for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. We hope to have that done in the next few days. We'll see how Iran and North Korea react. Then we'll see what the Council's next step is.

COLMES: How do you put teeth in those resolutions?

BOLTON: Well, that comes next. If the Iranians, for example, continue to refuse to suspend uranium enrichment activities, refuse to talk about the very generous offer that the Europeans have made to them, the next step will be sanctions, no question about it.

COLMES: And how do you enforce them?

BOLTON: Well, then we'll see whether the Security Council is up for the task and I don't predict automatic success. I'm not predicting failure, either; I'm saying this is a test.

COLMES: Are you finding what you expected to find in your job? Are you seeing — is it more frustrating than you thought it to be?

BOLTON: It's exactly what I expected.

COLMES: And what's that?

BOLTON: It's exactly what I expected with difficulty...

COLMES: Are you being diplomatic? What are you doing there?

BOLTON: I'm trying to be diplomatic.

HANNITY: That's a great answer.

BOLTON: I view my job as advocating America's interests, and sometimes that brings you into disagreement with other countries who are advocating their interests. The difference — everybody in the U.N. advocates their own national interests. The only difference is the United States is the only one that's criticized for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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