Olmert, Bush and Red-faced Rice

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has boasted that he forced US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to abstain from a UN Security Council resolution on Gaza, which she supported and even helped draft.

"In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favor," Olmert said in a speech cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Pouring on political bravado, Olmert said he demanded to talk to Bush with only 10 minutes to spare before a UN Security Council vote on Thursday on a resolution opposed by Israel calling for an immediate ceasefire.

"I said ‘get me President Bush on the phone’. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care. ‘I need to talk to him now,’" he recalled.

Olmert described Bush, who leaves office on January 20, as "an unparalleled friend" of Israel.

"He got off the podium and spoke to me," he said.

"I told him the United States could not vote in favor. It cannot vote in favor of such a resolution," he recalled telling the American president.

"He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favor."

Fourteen of the Security Council’s 15 members supported the resolution, which calls for an immediate ceasefire and an Israeli withdrawal from the bombed-out Gaza Strip.

Red-Faced

Olmert said his phone-call and Bush’s immediate intervention left Rice red-faced after she had "cooked up, phrased, organized and maneuvered" the resolution.

"She was left shamed," he noted.

"A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favor."

The US, Israel’s main ally, had initially been expected to vote in line with the other 14 but Rice later became the sole abstention.

Rice told the Security Council while she abstained from voting in favor, her government "fully supports" the resolution.

But a US State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, denied Olmert’s claim.

"Mr. Olmert is wrong," the official told AFP.  He claimed that Rice had planned to abstain.

"That was the plan," said the official. "The government of Israel does not make US policy."

But Rice’s abstention came as a surprise to a high-level delegation of Arab foreign ministers she had been negotiating with to accept the British-drafted text.

"We were told that the Americans were going to vote in favor," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said a day after the vote.

He added that when Rice came in to the Security Council chamber she informed Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi el-Faisal with an apology that she would abstain.

"What happened in the last 10 or 15 minutes, what kind of pressure she received, from whom, this is really something that maybe we will know about later."

(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)

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