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Bolton accused of keeping Powell, Rice in dark

SMH | April 19, 2005

By Dafna Linzer

John Bolton ... hid information on Iran, officials say.

John Bolton, the controversial figure seeking confirmation by the Senate as the next US ambassador to the United Nations, often hid information on Iran from the former secretary of state Colin Powell, and, on one occasion, his successor, Condoleezza Rice, current and former officials say.

Officials were so frustrated by his blocking tactics that they found back channels to Mr Powell or his deputy, Richard Armitage.

In some cases, the information was delayed for weeks or simply did not get through. The officials cited a dozen examples of memos or information that Mr Bolton refused to forward during his four years as the under-secretary of state for arms control and international security.

Two officials described a memo that had been prepared for Mr Powell at the end of October 2003, before a critical international meeting on Iran, informing him the US was losing support for efforts to have the UN Security Council investigate Iran's nuclear program. Mr Bolton allegedly argued it would be premature to throw in the towel.

"When Armitage's staff asked for information about what other countries were thinking, Bolton said that information couldn't be collected," one official said.
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As the under-secretary of state in charge of nuclear issues, Mr Bolton had a lot of latitude to decide what needed to go to the secretary. But officials said they often felt that his decisions, and policy views, left Mr Powell uninformed and fed long-running struggles inside the department.

Mr Bolton's time at the State Department under Dr Rice has been brief. But officials said Mr Bolton let her go on her first European trip without knowing about growing opposition there to his campaign to oust the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei.

"She went off without knowing the details of what everybody else was saying about how they were not going to join the campaign," an official said. Dr ElBaradei is seen by some in the Bush Administration as too soft on Iran.

Publicly, Dr Rice has staunchly defended Mr Bolton's credentials and urged the Senate to confirm him quickly. But privately, officials said, she has kept him out of crucial discussions on Iran since taking over in January.

Mr Bolton's staff spent the weekend answering dozens of follow-up queries from the Senate foreign relations committee, which is conducting his confirmation hearings.

Democrats on the panel blocked a vote on Mr Bolton last week and hope new information may persuade the Republicans' Senator Lincoln Chafee or others to vote against him.

Democrats have been trying to persuade one Republican member of the panel to oppose Mr Bolton, which could force a tied vote in the committee that would block the nomination from reaching the full Senate.

A vote is scheduled for today, and Republicans on the committee indicated on Sunday that they would support Mr Bolton. But they also expressed deep concern over the bullying charges against him in recent weeks.

One Republican on the panel, Senator Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska, said he was troubled by the continuing revelations but would probably back Mr Bolton if nothing further emerged.

"At this point I will ... but I have been troubled with more and more allegations, revelations, coming about his style, his method of operations," he said on CNN.

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