WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday denied reports that a telephone call by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to President George W. Bush forced Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to abstain in a U.N. vote on the Gaza war.
"I’ve seen these press reports, they are inaccurate," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
In a speech late on Monday, Olmert said he had demanded to talk to Bush with only 10 minutes to spare before a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution opposed by Israel calling for an immediate ceasefire.
"He gave an order to the secretary of state and she did not vote in favor of it — a resolution she cooked up, phrased, organized and maneuvered for. She was left pretty shamed and abstained on a resolution she arranged," Olmert said.
Arab ministers said after the U.N. vote Thursday that Rice had promised them the United States would support the resolution, but then made an apparent about-face after talking to Bush.
A few minutes before the scheduled vote at the United Nations, Rice’s staff told reporters she would make a few brief comments beforehand, but then abruptly canceled her press appearance, saying she would instead speak to Bush by phone.
The vote was delayed while other ministers waited for Rice to finish the call. She then entered the U.N. Security Council chamber, huddled with Arab ministers who shook their heads as she spoke to them.
Immediately after the vote, Rice left for Washington without talking to waiting reporters. Her spokesman did not return repeated calls and e-mail over why Rice had reneged on her promise to Arab leaders to back the vote.
Rice joined her French and British ministers in drawing up the resolution and the three Western powers haggled with Arab countries for three days over wording, which Rice told the U.N. Security Council. (Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Sue Pleming; Editing by Doina Chiacu)