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(photo credit: AP)
Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton criticized the US government for releasing $25 million to North Korea, declared that using military force against Iran would be preferable to allowing a nuclear Iran and said it is time to contemplate regime change in Sudan.
During his 17 months as President George W. Bush's envoy to the United Nations, Bolton gained a reputation for speaking out. Now that he has left the Bush administration, he has become even more outspoken on national security issues, especially the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
After an off-the-record speech Tuesday to the Hudson Institute, a non-partisan policy research organization, Bolton told a group of reporters that Iran will not give up its nuclear ambitions and North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons.
He expressed hope that those people who think Iran can be talked out of its pursuit of nuclear weapons diplomatically will listen to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is expected to address the U.N. Security Council just before it votes on new sanctions against Teheran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment.
The hard-line Iranian president has dismissed the sanctions as a "torn piece of paper" and vowed nothing can stop Iran's nuclear plans. He has been granted a visa to come to New York but is waiting for the Security Council to schedule a vote, likely late this week or next week.
"I think Iran's record is clear that they're never going to give up the pursuit of uranium enrichment," Bolton said, "and I think that there's no disagreement within their leadership that that's the road to nuclear weapons."
The proposed new resolution - which Bolton said "doesn't add much by way of real sanctions" - will not dissuade Iran "from the course it's on," he said.
The only way to stop Iran, he said, is to take action outside the UN Security Council - by continuing to try to isolate and pressure the country financially, which the United States is trying to do, and by denying Tehran the technology and materials it needs.
"I believe that ultimately the only real prospect of getting Iran to give up nuclear weapons is to change the regime," Bolton said.
Should this be done militarily?
"By the force of the Iranian people themselves," Bolton replied. "But if the alternative is a nuclear Iran, as unpleasant as the use of military force would be, I think the prospect of a nuclear Iran is worse."
As for North Korea, he said the US government's decision to release US$25 million of Pyongyang's funds "is a mistake".
The US alleged that North Korea was using Banco Delta Asia in Macau to launder money and process counterfeit currency. As part of a deal reached at six-party talks in Beijing last month to restart negotiations on eliminating its nuclear program, Washington agreed to release the money.
US Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser said Monday that the money would be transferred into a North Korean account at the Bank of China in Beijing to be "used solely for the betterment of the North Korean people."
Bolton, who has returned to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said he has very little confidence that China is going to guarantee that North Korea uses the money for humanitarian programs.
"I think it's a signal of weakness," he said. "It's a terrible signal to Iran and other would-be proliferators, and it's a further example of letting North Korea out of the corner that they put themselves in through the nuclear test in October."
Bolton said North Korea's boycott of six-party talks on Tuesday over a dispute on when the US$25 million will be released from the Macau bank follows Pyongyang's negotiating tactics - agonize over a deal, sign it, then start renegging on it.
"They're just doing it again," he said. "It's why I've compared this to jumping into a bowl of molasses."
As for the deteriorating situation in conflict-wracked Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since 2003, Bolton criticized Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for refusing to allow UN peacekeeping troops to deploy to the vast western region and said the UN Security Council should approve a new sanctions resolution.
Asked what the US could do given al-Bashir's opposition, Bolton said, "I think it's very hard unless you're willing to contemplate something like regime change, which there may be reasons to do in Sudan because of al-Qaida influence and other reasons."
"I think regime change in Sudan is something that should be looked at, but also this is the time to press the African Union to do more," he said.
The AU has a 7,000-strong force in Darfur, "and if the U.N. can't alleviate the suffering, than the AU ought to step up and do more," Bolton said.
How can the Sudanese government be changed?
"I think there are so many dissatisfied elements of Sudan with this government that I think there are a lot of candidates for that," Bolton said.
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