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Speculation on Bolton replacement includes U.S. ambassador to Iraq

Updated:
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Speculation on a new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to succeed John Bolton is focusing on Washington's current ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and a former U.S. deputy ambassador at the U.N., Richard Williamson.

But there also are a number of other Republicans and even some Democrats whose names have been floated among diplomats at U.N. headquarters.

The Republican speculation includes Rep. Jim Leach, a 15-term lawmaker from Iowa and opponent of the war in Iraq who lost his seat in the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives in November, and two undersecretaries at the State Department, Nicholas Burns and Paula Dobriansky.

On the Democratic side, two former senators have been mentioned _ George Mitchell of Maine and Sam Nunn of Georgia.

President Bush accepted Bolton's resignation Monday, angered that a few Republicans joined Democrats in preventing his nomination from reaching the floor of the Senate. Bush appointed Bolton last year when Congress was in recess, but his term is about to expire. With a long fight for confirmation going nowhere, Bolton decided to resign.

Khalilzad, an Afghan-born Sunni Muslim and Republican insider, took up the Iraq post in June 2005 after serving as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 following the fall of the Taliban. In November, a senior State Department official said he was likely to leave Iraq as soon as the end of the year but was more likely to remain through the spring.

ABC News reported Tuesday that Khalilzad will soon return to the United States and is under ``strong consideration'' to be the new ambassador to the U.N., quoting a senior administration official.

The acting spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Michael McClellan, told The Associated Press ``there's no comment because there's no official announcement.''

Some diplomats question whether Bush would want to change ambassadors in Baghdad after a report by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group released Wednesday said U.S. policy in Iraq ``is not working,'' and urged an immediate diplomatic attempt to stabilize the country and allow withdrawal of most combat troops by early 2008.

Williamson, now a partner in the Chicago law firm of Mayer Brown Rowe and Maw, was a deputy ambassador at the U.N. in 2002-03 and ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva in 2004. He was recently in Washington where he reportedly spoke to several senior State Department officials.

Both Khalilzad and Williamson have strong international and political backgrounds.

Khalilzad served at the National Security Council as special assistant to the president and senior director for Islamic Outreach and Southwest Asia, and as head of the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Defense Department.

Williamson served as assistant secretary of state for international organizations in the State Department from 1988-89. He is a former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party and currently on the board of directors of the International Republican Institute.
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