New doubt cast on Bush's UN nomination as Senate delays vote

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The Independent US

A deeply divided Senate panel last night put off a scheduled vote on the controversial choice of John Bolton to be US ambassador to the United Nations for at least two weeks, casting the nomination into serious new doubt.

A deeply divided Senate panel last night put off a scheduled vote on the controversial choice of John Bolton to be US ambassador to the United Nations for at least two weeks, casting the nomination into serious new doubt.

After hours of rancorous debate, Richard Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, reversed course and agreed to a request by Joe Biden, its senior Democrat, for more time to investigate charges that Mr Bolton had bullied subordinates. His decision came after George Voinovich became the third Republican on the panel to voice concerns.

A few hours earlier, a top aide of former Secretary of State Colin Powell joined the debate, describing the nominee as "absolutely not" suitable for the job. "He is incapable of listening to people and taking account of their views," said Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Gen Powell.

"He would be an abysmal ambassador."

The presumption had been that despite the complaints, Mr Bolton - currently under-Secretary of State for arms control - would be confirmed. The Republicans hold a 10-8 majority on the committee, and it would require at least one, and possibly two defections, to torpedo the nomination. Two other Republicans had voiced misgivings earlier, but seemed to be ready to go along with the candidate chosen by President George Bush.

But Mr Voinovich's move changes these calculations. "I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for him," the Ohio Republican said, stunning his colleagues who were confident of pushing through the nomination on a straight party-line vote.

A 9-9 split on the committee would not necessarily doom Mr Bolton, as the matter could be sent to the Senate, where Republicans hold a 55-45 majority. But even that would not be sufficient to prevent a Democratic filibuster, for which 60 votes are needed.

Mr Bolton, a strong critic of the UN, is a provocative choice to be Washington's representative to the world body. Most of the allegations since his nomination, however, concern his personal dealings and judgment.

The White House yesterday insisted there was no need for a delay in the committee vote.

The eight Democrats on the committee are expected to vote unanimously against Mr Bolton. His fate had seemed to depend on two Republicans - Senators Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska - who expressed misgivings in recent days. Both however have indicated they will back the nominee nonetheless.

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