Bush's U.N. Agenda Is Well Under Way
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
Published: August 2, 2005
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 - Now that he is finally going to the United Nations as
ambassador, John R. Bolton is supposed to "provide clear American leadership
for reform" there, President Bush said Monday. But American officials say
much of their reform agenda at the United Nations has been accomplished
during the months while Mr. Bolton's nomination languished.
Doug Mills/The New York Times
John R. Bolton at the White House on Monday as President Bush announced his
appointment to be ambassador to the United Nations.
"Most of the reforms sought by the United States are well on their way to
completion," said a senior administration official, speaking anonymously to
avoid undercutting the rationale for the Bolton appointment. Another said
that because so much had been achieved, there was little concern that Mr.
Bolton's combative personality would jeopardize the agenda.
Mr. Bolton arrives at a time when significant disputes, such as those
involving the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, could well come
before the Security Council for review and possible sanctions. Another key
question is whether to allow one or more new nations permanent seats on the
Council; Japan, Germany, India and Brazil are vying to join the United
States, Russia, China, Britain and France.
While the United States supports a seat for Japan, Bush administration
officials say they do not want to press for it until the other changes they
have sought are put into place in September, when the General Assembly
United Nations and American diplomats are predicting that the main challenge
facing Mr. Bolton will be less to "reform" the United Nations than to
convince his conservative admirers in Congress that recent changes are real,
particularly those put in place after scandals in the oil-for-food program
and in some peacekeeping operations.
Aides to Mr. Bush have outlined six major objectives for what is called
reform, and the administration has won support for all of them from
Secretary General Kofi Annan and from other countries.
The first, administrative streamlining in Mr. Annan's office, to avoid a
repetition of the corruption and mismanagement in the oil-for-food program,
is being overseen by a newly appointed under secretary general for
management, Christopher B. Burnham, an American, who previously oversaw
budget, administration and security at the State Department.
A second objective, elimination of the United Nations Human Rights
Commission, where countries like Libya, Sudan and Cuba have sat and made
judgments on other nations' records, is likely to be achieved in September,
though the process of replacing it with another body could take a year,
according to United Nations officials.
A third goal, setting up a United Nations Democracy Fund, has generated
Two other goals are in the offing, including adoption of a new treaty
opposing terrorism within countries as well as between them, and
establishing a "peace-building commission."
Finally, the United States is close to achieving a broad statement at the
United Nations laying out policies toward alleviation of poverty in
developing countries. In recent days, several United Nations officials and
diplomats said they did not think the fact that Mr. Bolton would be getting
a recess appointment, and therefore serving a short term, would by itself
undercut his effectiveness.
"He will come here with the support of President Bush, and that's going to
mean a lot," said one European diplomat, asking not to be quoted by name
because the decision to speed the appointment was seen as an American
matter. Another European diplomat said Mr. Bolton would most likely be
careful, at least initially, to observe diplomatic niceties, given his
reputation as an infighter, which opponents cited in trying to block him.
More important than Mr. Bolton's style, several diplomats said, was the
clear indication in recent months, while Mr. Bolton's nomination was in
suspension, that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had taken the lead in
advocating changes at the United Nations.
Diplomats say they are aware that Mr. Bolton goes to the United Nations with
as controversial a reputation inside the administration as outside it.
Though Mr. Bolton is a favorite of Vice President Dick Cheney, Congressional
and administration officials say Ms. Rice declined to appoint him as deputy
secretary of state, in part because Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Indiana
Republican who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told her he
did not think he could be confirmed.
Ms. Rice now says sending Mr. Bolton to the United Nations was her idea, not
anyone else's. But administration officials say one advantage for her was
that Mr. Bolton will be executing policy at the United Nations, not
necessarily formulating it.
Congress will continue to watch Mr. Bolton for several reasons,
administration officials say. For one thing, legislation affecting the
United Nations remains before the Congress. In addition, Congress and the
administration will both want to be sure that reforms that have been agreed
to are actually carried out.
The administration, for example, opposes a move in Congress to impose a
cutoff of paying United Nations dues that has already passed the House of
Representatives. Ms. Rice and her aides have been working with senators to
block the measure.
In this effort, the administration has won over one of the United Nations'
toughest critics, Senator Norm Coleman, the Minnesota Republican who has led
the investigation into the oil-for-food program and called for Mr. Annan's
In an interview, Mr. Coleman said he was "thrilled that the administration
is committed to U.N. reform" and that "it has achieved so much" on its major
objectives. But he said other steps need to be taken, including eliminating
what he said was a bias against Israel on the part of United Nations
commissions and agencies.
If the Security Council is expanded, the Senate will have to approve the
changes, because they are part of the United Nations Treaty.
Administration officials say it will be impossible to make any changes in
the treaty until conservatives are satisfied with the progress on the other
"reform" agenda items. Mr. Bolton, they say, is likely to play a role, not
simply in conveying administration wishes on these matters to the United
Nations, but also to Congress.