PRESIDENT Bush has nominated as the US's next ambassador the United Nations a man who said in an interview in 2000, “If I were redoing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world”. The member he had in mind was, of course, the United States of America. In 1997 this same man wrote in The Wall Street Journal that, “The United States isn't legally bound to pay its UN dues. Treaties are law only for US domestic purposes. In their international operations, treaties are simply political obligations.” Meet John Bolton, a long-time State Department official whose hostility to multilateral institutions was nurtured during his earlier days as a protege of the extremist Senator Jesse Helms. President Bush has had trouble with more than one of his nominations for high office since his re-election and it would not be surprising if Mr Bolton's dismissive attitude to the organisation where he will represent America's interests may not be too much for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which has to confirm his appointment. Of course, Mr Bolton may take a less confrontational line if and when he arrives in New York and has to get the co-operation of other lesser nations in order to secure what Washington wants from the UN. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have made conciliatory remarks about the UN recently and they presumably do not want a showdown on the Security Council just because of their abrasive ambassador. Nonetheless it is worrying that someone so dismissive of the UN should represent the United States at a time that the organisation will be attempting painful but necessary reform, including in membership of the Security Council.


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