By Ray Fleming JOHN R Bolton, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, has not publicly lived up to his reputation as a hell-raiser since he was appointed by President Bush last summer. But his name surfaces sufficiently often in news reports for it to be clear that he is hard at work at the UN trying to knock it into a shape that would be more agreeable and useful to the United States. Yesterday he clashed with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan over the proposed establishment of a Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission. Said Mr Annan, who put forward the plan for change last year, “Obviously, the proposal isn't everything I asked for but there are enough good elements in this to build on.” Said Mr Bolton: “Based on conversations we've had with other governments, the strongest argument in favour of this draft is that it is not as bad as it could be.” The two statements perfectly encapsulate the difference between a Secretary General wanting reform but knowing the problems in getting agreement among 191 UN member, and an ambassador who wants only a UN geared to America's ideas and needs. The main objection to the previous Human Rights Commission was that the form of voting used for its membership enabled countries with terrible human rights records to become members as part of a regional slate. This has been changed for the new Human Rights Council to ensure that secret ballots will be held in the UN General Assembly when it votes on this matter and that all countries on the Council should be subject to a review of their own human rights record. From Mr Bolton's comment it is clear that these reforms do not go far enough for the United States and he wants to restart negotiations from scratch; but organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have urged support for the proposals, which may come in front of the General Assembly next week.