UN is like the Twilight Zone, says Bolton

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Stephanie, May 1, 2006.

  1. Stephanie

    Stephanie Diamond Member Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2004
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    | May 1, 2006 | Alec Russell
    This writer called Bolton a bantam cock????.... :shocked: :laugh:

    In his first interview with a British newspaper, America's ambassador to the United Nations tells Alec Russell why it is in dire need of reform

    John Bolton was in his element. America's famously blunt UN ambassador and hundreds of other senior diplomats had just spent almost two hours twiddling their thumbs in a deadlocked meeting awaiting a letter from the secretary general.

    John Bolton says he is not combative. ‘I am assertive’

    Then moments after the document arrived, the session was adjourned as the representatives of the developing world retired to plot - successfully as it transpired - how to stymie a series of radical reforms.

    South Africa's ambassador pledged that it would be for only a quarter of an hour.

    "I know those 15 minutes," said a deadpan Mr Bolton. "We have a bit longer than that, I think."

    If ever a scene epitomised the notorious UN inefficiency, which Mr Bolton has spent so much of his life railing against, this was it.

    "You had nearly 150 permanent representatives waiting around for an hour and a half," he said in one of many breaks in the key meeting on budget and reform at UN headquarters in New York. "With their aides, that is roughly 400 people waiting for one document and now we are waiting again.

    "There is an inherent amount of slippage in a process like this, but this really is business as usual."

    America's bantam cock of an ambassador is something of a cult figure at the UN.

    When meetings end he is followed by a crowd of cameramen keen to capture that famous walrus moustache and his colourful asides. Rival ambassadors salute his skill as a communicator and his diligence.

    He keeps Washington rather than New York hours, starting work before dawn and often going to bed by nine. While he speaks off the cuff, he assiduously takes notes of others' speeches, the opposite of the usual UN style.

    He is far less haughty than many of his predecessors.

    But it is exasperation as much as envy that defines reactions to him in the UN. His undiplomatic ways have infuriated even America's allies and UN officials pushing for reform.

    Eight months after President George W Bush made his highly contentious appointment, no one could suggest he has "gone native".

    A long-term conservative hawk, in 1994 he said the UN could easily do without the top 10 of its 39 floors. He also said there was no such thing as the UN, just an international community that can be led by the US.

    His language is a little more circumspect now but only a little. Has his opinion changed? "It's exactly what I expected ... an organisation that needs substantial reform," he replied

    "This atmosphere is like a bubble. It is like a twilight zone. Things that happen here don't reflect the reality in the rest of the world.

    "There are practices, attitudes and approaches here that were abandoned 30 years ago in much of the rest of the world. It's like a time warp. I think that's not useful for the organisation."

    UN officials mutter that far from helping to push through much-needed reforms to ensure embarrassments such as the oil-for-food scandal are never repeated, his methods have impeded the chances of agreement.

    In December, he forced a six-month limit on the UN budget, infuriating the developing world, by making further funding dependent on the passage of key reforms.

    America's EU allies, especially Britain, had to negotiate a compromise - "they pulled his chest hairs from the fire" said a veteran UN observer.

    Mr Bolton rolls his eyes when asked if he is combative because he is not really interested in reform. "That criticism is a complete non sequitur," he retorts. "My stance is not combative. I would describe it as assertive.

    "We feel strongly that we need reform. Condoleezza Rice said last September we want a revolution of reform. It's not often an American secretary of state calls for revolutions."

    The deadlocked meeting ended with the hopes of the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan - of streamlining its bureaucracy - left in tatters.

    The UN split on its traditional fault-line with developing nations voting against the changes, arguing that they would give too much power to the wealthy nations. "It's a mess," said one EU ambassador.

    The crisis could lead to Congress calling for a withholding of US dues. So has his experience confirmed him as a unilateralist?

    "I never thought of myself as a unilateralist or multi-lateralist one way or another. For most Americans it is a very pragmatic question to say what is the most effective tool to accomplish the goals of American foreign policy. They say, what is the way to advance our interest?"

    When he leaves the post, he will have plenty more anecdotes to delight the Republican heartland - and all too few signs of change in his Twilight Zone.

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