updated 4/6/2005 1:23:16 PM ET 2005-04-06T17:23:16

A Senate committee postponed until next week a hearing on John R. Bolton’s nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, with a spokesman saying several members would be attending Pope John Paul II’s funeral.

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing had been planned for Thursday. Bolton faces stiff opposition for stands he has taken as undersecretary of state for arms control.

The postponement — probably until Monday — comes amid increased focus on the potential pivotal vote that will be cast by Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I. Chafee is a moderate who has said he likely would support the nomination, but he has given Bolton only a lukewarm endorsement.

“The senator has not made up his mind. He’s waiting to hear on the record what is said and then he’ll decide. But we’re inclined to support the nomination. That’s where we are,” Stephen Hourahan, a Chafee spokesman, said Wednesday.

So far, Hourahan said, there’s been nothing in Bolton’s background that has surfaced that would prompt Chafee to vote against Bolton.

Republicans control the Foreign Relations panel by 10-8. Bills and nominations generally need a majority vote for a committee to send the item to the full Senate.

Committee spokesman Andy Fisher said the postponement involved an agreement with Democrats that action on Bolton by the committee would be completed next week.

President Bush’s nomination of Bolton, a blunt-speaking hard-liner, has stirred unusual controversy within the diplomatic community.

Five former U.S. secretaries of state urged the Senate on Tuesday to confirm Bolton. And scores of retired diplomats have lined up on both sides, critics attacking his opposition to several arms control treaties and his criticism of the United Nations in the past.

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