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The Nation

Khalilzad will be Bush's pick as U.N. envoy

Now Iraq ambassador, he is thought 'smooth' as Bolton was 'prickly.'

January 09, 2007|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — President Bush intends to nominate Zalmay Khalilzad as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the White House announced Monday, signaling that Washington plans to work with the U.N. in a high-profile way, with a high-flying troubleshooter.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the official announcement, which had been anticipated since last week, saying Khalilzad performed "heroically and at great personal risk" as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq for the last 18 months as he tried to help Iraqis build democracy in their country.

Rice also announced that Ryan Crocker, a career diplomat who now is U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, will be nominated to succeed Khalilzad in Baghdad.

Khalilzad's diplomatic style is more polished and pragmatic than that of his confrontational predecessor at the United Nations, John R. Bolton, though they share ideological roots. Khalilzad's efforts to bring Sunni factions into the government to achieve stability failed, but his ability to forge compromises will probably be more appreciated at the United Nations -- especially after Bolton.

"Where Bolton was prickly, Khalilzad will be smooth and balsamic," said Ahmad Fawzi, who was the U.N. spokesman at the Bonn conference to help form a government for Afghanistan in 2001 and watched Khalilzad at work. "He has the qualities of humility and patience ... that enable him to get along with people of all ilks."

At the U.N., ambassadors stressed that they were expected to carry out their instructions, not make policy, and that therefore they would deal with whomever Washington sent their way. But in the diplomatic world, where personality, protocol and politesse hold sway, the way a message is delivered can be as important the message itself.

Diplomats said they would welcome an envoy like Khalilzad, who has a feel for Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East, speaks several languages and has an international perspective.

"I can work with anyone who is sent here," said Nana Effah-Apenteng, the ambassador from Ghana, who said he had never met Khalilzad. "We have no choice," he joked.

The U.N. has avoided broad involvement in Iraq, citing security issues. Underlying that is quiet resentment of the way the U.S. led the 2003 invasion without the Security Council's approval. But new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has advocated greater U.N. involvement in rebuilding efforts. Khalilzad could prove an effective liaison between the U.S. and U.N. on Iraq, and other areas.

"He knows the region very well -- he's well acquainted with Iraq and the issues of the entire Middle East -- and so he might be more able to deal with these issues," said Yahya Mahmoussani, the Arab League representative at the U.N.

Although diplomatic, Khalilzad is known to be tough, independent-minded and sometimes hard to work with. He does not think that U.S. policy should be subject to others' approval, although he sees the merit of engaging -- and changing -- the U.N.

"I will work hard to advance the values of the American people," he said Monday in Washington, adding that he would strive for "a world in which we take collective action against threats to security, in which freedom and democracy are expanding, in which the rule of law becomes more widespread, and in which all nations enjoy economic prosperity."

Khalilzad, along with Bolton, Paul D. Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and others, signed a 1998 letter to then-President Clinton calling for an invasion of Iraq. But even the famously confrontational Bolton appeared to soften slightly during his months at the U.N., where winning other members' support is vital to getting one's way.

"In the beginning, Ambassador Bolton was very difficult to work with," said Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, a temporary Security Council member and the leader of a group of developing countries that clashed with Bolton.

"But I'm one of those who said we are sort of sorry he was leaving, because he had turned around and he was beginning to listen."

Khalilzad, the highest-ranking Muslim in the Bush administration, arrived in Iraq in 2005 and helped Iraqis agree on a constitution and form a multifaction government. A Sunni himself, he tried to bring Sunni factions into the fold, an approach the U.N. also advocated.

Before Iraq, he served two years as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, the nation of his birth.

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maggie.farley@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Zalmay Khalilzad

Born: 1951, Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan

Education: Kabul, with a year of high school in Ceres, Calif., near Modesto as an exchange student.

College: Bachelor's and master's degrees at American University of Beirut; doctorate in 1979 at University of Chicago.

Career:

1979 to 1986, assistant professor of political science at Columbia University.

1985-1989, joined State Department as advisor on the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

1989-1991, was a political scientist at Rand Corp. and an associate professor at UC San Diego.

1991-1992, served as assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy planning.

1993-1999, director of the strategy, doctrine and force structure program for Rand's Project Air Force. While with Rand, he founded the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

2000-2003, headed Bush-Cheney transition team for the Defense Department, and served as a Pentagon counselor and as a presidential envoy for "free Iraqis."

2003-2005, ambassador to Afghanistan.

2005-present, ambassador to Iraq.

Personal: Married, 2 sons.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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