Key Republican senator says he may oppose Bolton for U.N.

Texas woman's claims add to `disturbing pattern'

April 18, 2005|By Richard A. Serrano | Richard A. Serrano,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - A key Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee suggested yesterday that he might oppose John R. Bolton as U.N. ambassador if more allegations come out about the nominee's character and behavior.

That could result in a tie vote in the committee and endanger President Bush's choice to head the U.S. delegation to the international body.

As the committee vote scheduled for tomorrow nears, Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, said he remains concerned about a series of accusations questioning Bolton's temperament and wondered whether he was the right man for the job.

"We need a uniter," Hagel said on CNN's Late Edition. "We need a builder. We need someone who will reach out to our friends and our allies at the United Nations."

Hagel hedged when asked whether he would vote for Bolton. "At this point, I will," he said. "But I have been troubled with more and more allegations, revelations, coming out about his style, his method of operation."

Hagel is second in seniority among the 10 Republicans on the committee. With eight Democrats on the panel, a vote by Hagel against Bolton would tip the result into a tie - an event that could send the matter to the full Senate without a recommendation.

Another committee Republican, Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, remains equally troubled, and his spokesman, Stephen Hourahan, said the senator would decide today how he will proceed after reviewing new allegations against Bolton.

On Saturday, the staff of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the committee, released an e-mail from a Texas woman claiming that she was threatened by Bolton in 1994 when he became angry over her work on a private contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Kyrgyzstan.

Melody Townsel of Dallas complained to the committee that Bolton had shouted at her, thrown papers at her, chased her down a hotel hallway in Moscow and pounded on her room door. She labeled his behavior as "pathological," a description that is consistent with statements from other former co-workers of Bolton who told committee members that he has a hot temper.

But yesterday, Ed Hullander, who worked with Townsel on the AID contract and now is an AID senior economist, said it was Townsel, not Bolton, who acted irrationally. "She would get belligerent at times," Hullander said.

He said that though he was not at the hotel at that time, he would have heard about any misbehavior.

"It would not have gone unnoticed," Hullander said. "The security there was so tight, they would not have allowed anything like that in the hotel hallways."

He added, "Anyone who knows John, running through the hall doesn't make sense at all. It's too outrageous even to think about."

Nevertheless, Hagel said the allegations about Bolton, including other assertions that he tried to have intelligence analysts fired, remained bothersome. He called it a "disturbing pattern of things that have come out about Bolton's management style" and likened it to intimidation.

"We cannot have that at the United Nations," Hagel said. "That should not be anywhere in our government."

Biden, appearing on Fox News Sunday, said he had no plans to ask for a delay in the vote or for more hearings. "But," he said, "we're waiting for Bolton's answers to find out whether or not he's giving us honest responses. ... I think his credibility's in question."

Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican and the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said on the same program that he planned for the vote to go forward because he did not expect the judgments of committee members to change. "I'm going to ask the committee to meet at 2:15 on Tuesday afternoon and to vote," he said.

Lugar conceded that Bolton has in the past "disagreed sharply with analysts," describing the committee testimony last week as "not a pleasant set of hearings."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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