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Bolton Resigns as U.N. Ambassador, Avoiding Battle

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has handed in his resignation. In his letter to President Bush, Bolton said that he would leave his post when the current session of Congress ends, possibly within days. Bolton held the UN position on a temporary basis. The posting was due to expire in January.

NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM: John Bolton's short tenure as ambassador to the UN was contentious, controversial and thanks to his gift for pithy statements, colorful. Such as this comment about reforming the UN Human Rights Council:

Mr. JOHN BOLTON (UN Ambassador, United States): We want a butterfly. We don't intend to put lipstick on a caterpillar and call it a success.

NORTHAM: Bolton was first nominated for the UN post in March 2005. There was fiery debate during his first confirmation hearing. Many Democrats and some Republicans were concerned about Bolton's reputation for being pugnacious and intimidating.

President Bush sidestepped the Senate in August 2005 and appointed Bolton when Congress was in recess, angering many senators. The White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination last month, but with Democrats taking control of the next Congress, it was unlikely Bolton would be granted another term as ambassador.

Today, President Bush said he was disappointed about the resignation.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I accept it. I'm not happy about it. I think he deserved to be confirmed. The reason why I think he deserved to be confirmed is because I know he did a fabulous job for the country.

NORTHAM: Bolton did have some success at the UN. He pushed through sanctions against North Korea. But he also alienated fellow diplomats on issues such as Iran, Syria and Darfur. That could have had a negative impact on his key mission to overhaul the United Nations.

President Bush is expected to name a new candidate soon. Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Zalmey Khalizad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, are considered as possible replacements.

Jackie Northam, NPR News. Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam
Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.