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Bush stands by UN ambassador despite Democrats' opposition

WASHINGTON -- President Bush will not relent in his defense of John Bolton, his nominee for UN ambassador, despite unwavering opposition from Democrats who view Bolton as too combative for international diplomacy, aides said yesterday.

Two of Bush's top advisers said the White House is not backing down from a fight to win Senate approval for Bolton to continue in the job. Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess. That appointment will expire when Congress adjourns, no later than January.

The Senate's top Democrat said lawmakers have more pressing matters to deal with during the postelection session this week. "I think we should go to things that we can work together on," said Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Bolton has done a remarkable job. "He's proven the critics wrong on all the charges they've leveled against him," Bartlett said. "So let's have a conversation about it. We'll see."

The White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination Thursday, though it has languished in the Senate for more than a year. Finding a replacement for Bolton would come at a sensitive time for the Bush administration. It is counting heavily on UN diplomacy to help confront North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs and to end fighting in Sudan's Darfur region.

With Democrats capturing control of the next Congress, Bolton's chances of winning confirmation appear slim. In fact, last week the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Democrat of Delaware, said he saw "no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again."

"We're putting him up for confirmation," White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten said yesterday. "I think if he actually was able to get a vote in the full Senate, he would succeed."

Yet Senator Lincoln Chafee, the Rhode Island Republican who lost on Election Day, said he would not end his opposition to Bolton. That probably would deny Republicans the votes needed to move the nomination from the committee to the full Senate. Republicans now lack the 60 votes needed to force a vote.

Democrats say Bush should alter course now and nominate someone less hard-charging, with greater finesse in handling sensitive diplomatic matters.

"There's a lot of competent people. Send someone new up, Mr. President," Biden said yesterday.

In the president's view, however, Bolton "has turned out to be a very effective representative at the UN ," Bolten said. "He's turned out to be a good consensus builder, and it's been reflected on resolutions on North Korea, in Lebanon, in other ways."

Bolten and Biden appeared on ABC's "This Week." Bartlett was on "Fox News Sunday," and Reid on "Face the Nation" on CBS.

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