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President Bush Accepts Resignation of U.N. Envoy Bolton

04 December 2006

State Department official sees continuity in broad policy after departure

Washington -- President Bush has accepted “with deep regret” the resignation of U.S. Representative to the United Nations John Bolton.

In a statement released by the White House December 4, the president credited Bolton with leading negotiations in the U.N. Security Council that resulted in unanimous resolutions on North Korean military and nuclear activities, a resolution calling on Iran to suspend the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium, and a U.N. peacekeeping commitment to Sudan.

Bolton was appointed to the post in August 2005 during a period when the U.S. Senate, which normally would vote on the nomination, was in recess.  Under the U.S. Constitution, a president may make temporary recess appointments without Senate confirmation.

The president re-nominated Bolton on November 9, but administration officials believed that his nomination did not have enough support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to come to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Bush said some senators were practicing “stubborn obstructionism” by “obstruct[ing] his confirmation” despite Bolton having the support of the majority of the Senate.  “[T]heir tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time,” Bush said.

White House press secretary Tony Snow blamed Bolton’s difficulties in the Senate on “partisanship and not performance,” adding, “for whatever reason the confirmation process seems to be broken.”

The press secretary called on both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to cooperate on “a confirmation process that allows competent people who share the president’s goals and policies to become confirmed for key positions.”


U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (Republican from Indiana) echoed the Bush administration’s statements of regret over Bolton’s resignation and thanked the ambassador “for the many ways he has served our country, over many years, with strong idealism and personal commitment.”

However, Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat from Delaware), who will chair the Foreign Relations Committee in the 110th Congress convening in January, said the White House is making a “false claim” in saying that Bolton’s nomination was “blocked by Senate Democrats.”

He said Bolton’s nomination was not voted on because the Bush administration had “refused to provide the Senate with documents directly relevant to his nomination,” rather than over opposition to his candidacy.

Biden said those documents included “National Security Agency intercepts Mr. Bolton asked to see in order to learn the identity of American citizens referenced in the intercepts.”  At the time of the intercepts, Bolton was serving as under secretary of state for arms control and international security.

Biden called on Bush to nominate a U.N. ambassador “who can garner strong bipartisan and international support” and “effectively represent” the United States “at a time of extraordinary international challenge,” and he pledged promptly to schedule confirmation hearings when that occurs.

The exact date of Bolton’s departure has not been announced. Under U.S. law, he can continue to serve until the 110th Congress convenes in January 2007. Until Bolton’s successor is confirmed, Alejandro Wolff, the deputy U.S. representative to the United Nations, is expected to serve as acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.


Paul Denig, spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, said U.S. foreign policy often is marked by continuity despite changes in senior officials, even when there are changes in administrations.

“What people should look for is really more of a continuation of U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. working with and through international organizations, rather than any monumental change,” Denig said.

Tactics and even some strategy in New York may change depending on the personality, but “in terms of the broad outline of the policy,” the permanent representative and his or her deputies at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations will continue to push for the goals that the president and the secretary of state set, he said.

However, he added that with the number of key issues of concern to the United States currently at the United Nations, “this is not a good time to change ambassadors.”

The Bush administration continues to seek a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and enrichment of uranium in violation of Resolution 1696, with the goal of persuading Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability. (See related article.)

There are also ongoing issues with North Korea and  Sudan, and efforts to establish an international tribunal in Lebanon to prosecute the perpetrators of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

“These are very delicate negotiations and obviously if you change ambassadors in the middle of a negotiation, there will be some impact,” Denig said.


At the United Nations, Bolton was successful building large coalitions around some difficult issues such as Security Council resolutions on the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs, Lebanon and a peacekeeping force for Darfur.  However on other issues in the General Assembly, such as the new Human Rights Council and U.N. reforms, the United States found itself in the minority.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan commended Bolton for doing "the job he was expected to do."

Bolton "came at a time when we had lots of tough issues," Annan told journalists.  "As a representative of the U.S. government, he pressed ahead with the instructions that he had been given and tried to work as effectively as he could with the other ambassadors."

Annan pointed out that no one individual ambassador is responsible for the difficulties on such complex and thorny issues as reforming the entire U.N. system.

"I have always maintained . . . it is important that the ambassadors work together, that the ambassadors understand that to get concessions, they have to make concessions and they need to work with each other or the organization to move ahead," the secretary-general said.

"I am also constantly encouraging member states to try and speak with one voice where it is possible, particularly in the Security Council,” Annan said, “because a united voice is much more powerful than a divided one."

The full text of the president’s statement on the resignation is available on the White House Web site. The statements from Lugar and Biden are available on Senate Web sites. A transcript of Annan’s remarks is available on the U.N. Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see The United States and the United Nations.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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