WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Samantha Power, President Barack Obama's nominee as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the U.N. Security Council's response to Syria's civil war a "disgrace" on Wednesday at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"We see the failure of the U.N. Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria - a disgrace that history will judge harshly," Power said in testimony that also praised the New York-based world body.
Under questioning from senators, she called Syria one of the worst "cases of mass brutality" that she has ever seen.
Power, 42, a former White House national security staffer and journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for her study of U.S. failures to prevent genocide, is seen as an advocate of an activist foreign policy.
She also said she sees at the United Nations "unacceptable bias and attacks against the State of Israel," and "the absurdity" of Iran serving as chair of the U.N. Conference on disarmament.
Power is expected to easily win Senate approval to the U.N. post.
"I am confident that the same passion that she has for human rights she has for this country," said Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, one of two Republican senators who introduced Power, who went to high school in Atlanta in Chambliss' home state.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the committee, said before the hearing that he expected Power to be well-received, but urged her to pursue reforms at the United Nations.
"All too often the U.N. acts as a place where bad actors deflect criticism," he said.
Separately, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida introduced legislation shortly before the hearing that would reduce U.S. funding to the United Nations unless there are major changes at the world body.
Among other things, Rubio's bill would withhold U.S. contributions to any U.N. entity that grants full membership to the Palestinian Authority in the absence of a negotiated peace settlement with Israel.
It also would make U.S. contributions to the United Nations voluntary and limit contributions to 22 percent of the U.N. budget, and seek zero growth in the U.N. regular budget.
Power had been criticized by some conservatives for seeming to suggest in a 2002 interview with an academic that the U.S. Army might be needed to police the Middle East conflict if either Israel or the Palestinians move toward genocide.
As a journalist in the 1990s, Power witnessed the Bosnian war and is best known for her book "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," which chronicles the U.S. failure to stop genocide in a series of cases during the 20th century.
Power's discretion and diplomatic skills were called into question in 2008 when she labelled Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, then running against Obama for the Democratic nomination, "monster."
The remark prompted Power's resignation from Obama's campaign team, but she is now strongly backed by Democrats.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Vicki Allen