Confirmation Hopes Dim for Bolton at UN ; the Controversial Ambassador Is in Political Limbo with a Senate Committee Vote Deadlocked

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John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations, has pleaded the case for smooth and timely political appointments, saying officeholders need a transition period to prepare as well as settle their personal lives.

Mr. Bolton was referring last week to the ongoing process to find a successor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose term ends at the end of the year. But the controversial diplomat could have been talking about himself.

Bolton, who has been serving without Senate confirmation since August 2005 under a presidential recess appointment, had appeared to be cruising toward a Senate vote last month. But then a surprise flat note from the Republican side of the aisle threw things off. With Congress now in recess for midterm elections, Bolton is in political limbo again - with even some Republican supporters saying his job in New York is doomed.

"The skies aren't looking too favorable for Bolton," says one US official who did not want to be named because the official was less than upbeat about confirmation. "If he wants to plan anything, it might be a move back to Washington."

Others say the ball is now in the White House court. Andy Fisher, spokesman for Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana, says that while a committee vote is "still possible," it is now "up to the administration as to how they want to push it following the election."

To some, Bolton has been a poster boy for all that's wrong with Bush foreign policy. But to some conservatives and UN skeptics, he's a darling for his tough-minded approach to the international organization.

During his 14 months as UN ambassador, Bolton has allayed some fears that he would be too strident for his job and has reassured some senators that he is pursuing American interests over his own ideological goals. Most notably, he won over Sen. George Voinovich (R) of Ohio, who held up a confirmation vote last year but announced in July that a year of Bolton had persuaded him to vote in the affirmative.

But Bolton has not been able to throw off his close association with the unilateralist, our-way-or-the-highway approach for foreign policy in the first Bush term. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which takes up ambassadorial confirmations, was caught off guard last month when Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) of Rhode Island, fighting a tough reelection campaign, informed Chairman Lugar he was not prepared to vote for Bolton. His explanation: He has questions about Bush administration policy toward the Middle East - specifically, what he considers favoritism toward Israel. Bolton is a staunch advocate of pro-Israel policy.

The loss of one Republican senator's support nixed a vote to send the nomination to the full Senate, since committee Democrats - uniformly opposed to Bolton - hold eight of 18 votes. …