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Sept 10 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump has fired national security adviser John Bolton amid disagreements over how to handle foreign policy challenges such as North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and Russia.
A leading foreign policy hawk, Bolton was widely known to have pressed the Republican president not to let up pressure on North Korea despite diplomatic efforts. He had also argued against the president's suggestions of a possible meeting with the Iranian leadership and advocated a tougher approach on Russia and, more recently, Afghanistan.
U.S. and foreign lawmakers, officials and policy analysts reacted swiftly to the unexpected news:
Senator Marco Rubio, a top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters:
"I’m a big fan of John Bolton. I’ve worked very well with him, and in my view he did a good job. But ultimately that’s the president’s decision to make. He has the right to have people around him that he wants."
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters:
"It’s emblematic of President Trump’s style. He wants people who basically are yes-men. I may not have agreed with Ambassador Bolton on a whole host of issues and his bellicose views, but the one thing about him is he obviously presented counterviews at times for his (Trump’s) consideration. That’s not something the president wants.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at the White House:
".... I don’t think that any leader around the world should make any assumption that because some one of us departs that President Trump’s foreign policy will change in a material way. ... There were many times Ambassador Bolton and I disagreed, that's to be sure, but that's true for lots of people with whom I interact."
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei wrote on Twitter:
"John Bolton had promised months ago that Iran would last for another three months. We are still standing and he is gone. With the expulsion of the biggest proponent of war and economic terrorism, the White House will face fewer obstacles in understanding Iran's realities."
Democratic U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement:
"This firing of the national security advisor is just the latest reminder that the Trump administration's foreign policy is in complete disarray. ... American leadership is desperately needed around the world. Instead, our national security decision-making process is in chaos and America is less safe."
Representative Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, described Bolton as a friend, and told Reuters:
"I think the president honestly thinks he can negotiate a deal with Iran. And I think Bolton has his own views that you can’t negotiate with the Taliban, you can’t negotiate with the ayatollah. And I think that fundamentally that’s at odds with where the president wants to go, in terms that he wants to negotiate a better relationship with our enemies."
Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the foreign policy commission of the German parliament and senior lawmaker from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, told Reuters:
"It is an opportunity, not leastly for the trans-Atlantic relationship."
North Korea expert Harry Kazianis, a senior director at the Center for the National Interest think tank, said in an email: "For anyone like myself who wants the United States to return to a more restrained and realist foreign policy, the firing of John Bolton was long overdue and a smart move for Team Trump. ... Trump is now free to find a national security adviser who is against wars of regime change, a smaller footprint in the Middle East, some sort of diplomatic track with North Korea and a much bigger focus on the rise of China."
Richard Gowan, International Crisis Group U.N. director, said in a statement:
"Bolton brought his trademark dislike of the U.N. and other international institutions like the ICC (International Criminal Court) to the White House. On his watch, the U.S. has ensured that the U.N. has been marginalized on crises from Libya to Venezuela. The Trump administration was highly skeptical of multilateralism before Bolton's arrival, and is unlikely to embrace it warmly now he has gone. But the U.S. may devote a little less time and energy to weakening U.N. institutions.”
Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters:
"You know, I would normally say 'shocked' but nothing in this administration shocks you today. Mr. Bolton and I didn't agree on a lot of issues. But he was a straight shooter. He knows the circumstances. I'm sure he told the president what was going on. The president may not have liked to hear it. And it's unfortunate if the president won't accept professional advice.”
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, wrote on Twitter:
"A symptom of the problem is gone. The root cause of authoritarianism remains."
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democratic member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement:
"John Bolton was the wrong choice and the silver lining to this instability is that there will be fewer people whispering war chants in the president’s ear. But no one of any quality is going to take a job in the nation’s national security cabinet so long as everyone’s head is permanently hovering slightly above the chopping block."
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement:
"President Trump, like every other president, has the right to a National Security Advisor of his own choosing. I hope the president will choose someone with a strong background in national security and a world view that there is no substitute for American power when it comes to world order and that strength is better than weakness."
Asked earlier in the day who would now speak to U.S. allies from the White House, Graham said:
"Probably Trump." (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, David Morgan and David Brunnstrom in Washington, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Andreas Rinke in Berlin and the Dubai newsroom Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; editing by Jonathan Oatis)