Under That Tough Exterior, Holbrooke Hides a Soft Spot

From Times Wire Services

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy whose robust diplomacy forged a peace agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has a tough-guy image, but he revealed a sentimental side during a Rose Garden ceremony Thursday in which he was nominated as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Apparently choking back tears, he spoke of his late father's great respect for the United Nations.

Holbrooke, 57, described how his father took him at age 8 to the then-newly completed United Nations building in New York.

"These buildings, my father said, would become the most important in the world. They would prevent future wars," said Holbrooke, breaking down briefly and turning to Clinton for a reassuring pat on the shoulder before continuing his remarks at the White House.

"My father did not live to see how his dream for the U.N. dissolved in the face of the harsh realities of the Cold War and the inadequacies of the U.N. system itself. But I never forgot the initial visit and my father's noble, if overly idealistic, dream," he said.

Despite the agency's "many problems and failures," said the seasoned diplomat, "I still believe in the importance--indeed, the necessity--of the United Nations."

The former assistant secretary of State is best known as the architect of the Balkan peace agreement hammered out in Dayton, Ohio, in 1995. Holbrooke left the State Department in February 1997 to return to New York as an investment banker, but he has been recalled on an ad hoc basis frequently since.

Calling himself an unpaid advisor to the State Department, he became a peace envoy to Cyprus in 1997, and in May this year reentered the Balkan fray to try to foster Kosovo peace talks.

Colleagues say Holbrooke will pull out all the stops to get a job done. One British official said he could "behave like a bull in a china shop. And he frequently does."

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