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Senate is close to confirming envoy to U.N.

WASHINGTON -- After nine months without a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the Senate is close to confirming veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke for the post, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman said Friday.

Holbrooke "probably will be confirmed in a week or so," said Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., whom some Holbrooke supporters had feared would block his confirmation.Helms made the remark on the Senate floor while urging that payment of U.S. debts to the United Nations be tied to a plan to reform the world body and cut its budget. He noted approvingly that Holbrooke "strongly favors the reform of the United Nations."

President Clinton named Holbrooke, whose work helped bring peace to Bosnia, as his choice for the post a year ago. Bill Richardson left the job to become Energy secretary in mid-September.

But Clinton held up the formal nomination until February, while the State and Justice departments investigated whether Holbrooke had violated conflict-of-interest laws.