Bolton's last ally abandons him to his fate

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The beleaguered George Bush looks certain to lose another senior appointment - his controversial envoy to the United Nations, John Bolton.

The administration's only real hope of reconfirming Ambassador Bolton lay in securing the support of the Republican senator Lincoln Chafee, a moderate from Rhode Island who lost his seat on Tuesday and will stand down at the end of the year. But Mr Chafee has said he will not support Mr Bolton's appointment.

Mr Chafee said he believed that the American public had sent a clear message and that he was obliged to listen. "To confirm Mr Bolton to the position of UN ambassador would fly in the face of the clear consensus of the country that a new direction is called for. I have long believed that the go-it-alone philosophy that has driven this administration's approach to international relations has damaged our leadership position in the world," he said.

Mr Bolton, a former under secretary of state accused by critics of falsely making the case for war against Iraq, was appointed on a temporary basis by Mr Bush in the summer of 2005. His confirmation had been vehemently opposed by Democrats who launched a filibuster that prevented the issue coming to a vote. Mr Bolton's temporary appointment expires in 2007. It is unclear what the White House now intends to do.

On Thursday, the White House resubmitted Mr Bolton's nomination to the Senate, aware that if it was forced to find a replacement it would come as the UN is heavily involved in issues ranging from North Korea's nuclear testing to the continuing violence in Darfur.

"He has been extraordinarily effective up there at the UN and now is not the time to have a gap in your UN ambassador," said a State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack.

But Democrats indicated that should the Senate - still under Republican control until the end of the year - try to proceed with Mr Bolton's appointment when it reconvenes next week, they would again be prepared to launch a filibuster to prevent the issue coming to a vote.

As it stands, the Republicans are three votes short of the 60 they need to force a vote on the issue.

Senator Joseph Biden, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and the man who will become its chairman next year, told the Associated Press: "I see no point in considering Mr Bolton's nomination again in the Foreign Relations Committee because regardless of what happens there, he is unlikely to be considered by the full Senate."