By Patrick Worsnip
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 9 (Reuters) - The United States has contributed to instability in Pakistan by not fully supporting President Pervez Musharraf as the best bulwark against Islamic fundamentalists, former U.N. envoy John Bolton said on Friday.
Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005-06, told a news conference at U.N. headquarters army chief Musharraf was the best hope for keeping Pakistan’s nuclear weapons out of the hands of radicals.
The former diplomat, who quit his U.N. job last December after failing to win Senate confirmation and now works at a conservative Washington think tank, urged the administration to drop its focus on elections in Pakistan and "get a grip."
"The consequence of a radical fundamentalist regime getting its hands on those nuclear weapons would be very grave," he said.
Promoting a book released earlier this week, Bolton said he was not happy with the situation in Pakistan or defending Musharraf’s declaration of a state of emergency, "but I think you have to consider what the U.S. strategic interest is."
"The question is ... what is the policy to maximize the chances that the weapons do not fall into the wrong hands?", said Bolton, an outspoken conservative both as U.N. ambassador and earlier as an assistant secretary of state.
"I think for the moment the answer to that is support for Musharraf. And I think in fact the United States has contributed to some of the instability by implying less than robust support of Musharraf."
The White House called on Friday for an early end to the state of emergency as a prelude to elections in Pakistan, and urged all sides to refrain from violence.
But Bolton said, "I think second-guessing what’s going on in Islamabad, forcing elections — you wonder when we’re going to learn our lesson. We forced an election in the Palestinian territories and got Hamas as the victor. So I think that we need to try and get a grip here."
Bolton said history gave little confidence civilian rulers in Pakistan could keep the military under control or keep the nuclear weapons secure.
He called the news conference to promote his book, "Surrender Is Not An Option," which lays bare his disagreements with U.S. policymakers and U.N. officials and ambassadors.
On Iran, a subject that occupies two chapters of his book, Bolton repeated his view that the United States had wasted four years following its European allies in trying to persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear program.
Washington should have devoted that time to seeking "regime change" in the Islamic Republic and should now be considering military force, he said.
He sharply attacked Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, who has spent years negotiating with Tehran, as an "apologist for Iran."
(Editing by Todd Eastham)