Bolton's British Problem; Fresh Complaints of Bullying Dog an Embattled Nominee

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Hirsh (With Mark Hosenball, John Barry and Richard Wolffe in Washington)

Colin Powell plainly didn't like what he was hearing. At a meeting in London in November 2003, his counterpart, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, was complaining to Powell about John Bolton, according to a former Bush administration official who was there. Straw told the then Secretary of State that Bolton, Powell's under secretary for arms control, was making it impossible to reach allied agreement on Iran's nuclear program. Powell turned to an aide and said, "Get a different view on [the Iranian problem]. Bolton is being too tough."

Unbeknownst to Bolton, the aide then interviewed experts in Bolton's own Nonproliferation Bureau. The issue was resolved, the former official told NEWSWEEK, only after Powell adopted softer language recommended by these experts on how and when Iran might be referred to the U.N. Security Council. But the terrified State experts were "adamant that we not let Bolton know we had talked to them," the official said.

The incident illustrates a key allegation that now bedevils Bolton's nomination to be America's next ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton's critics contend that he has consistently taken an extreme and uncompromising line on issues and that he has bullied subordinates and intel analysts who disagreed with him. President Bush last week stood by his embattled nominee, blaming "politics" for Bolton's difficult confirmation process. But it was members of the president's own party who were holding things up. After GOP Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, unexpectedly blocked a vote last week, it was clear that Bolton's nomination was in trouble. Powell himself, in reported remarks to several senators, expressed worries about Bolton's temperament. Because the eight Democrats on the 18-person committee are solidly against Bolton, a single GOP defector could kill the nomination when it comes to a vote on May 12. The White House still believes that only a hard-liner like Bolton can reform the U. …