WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday denied that a telephone call from 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.
“Some of what we’ve seen is not accurate,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.
“There are inaccuracies,” he said about Olmert’s remarks Monday night in a speech broadcast on Israeli television and widely reported in the media.
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.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, who was with Rice at the United Nations last week during debate on the U.N. resolution, said the remarks were “just 100 percent, totally, completely untrue.”
McCormack added that Washington had no plan at the moment to seek clarification from Israel.
In his speech, Olmert described his call to Bush while the U.S. president was giving a speech in Philadelphia.
“I said, ‘I don’t care. I have to talk to him now,’” Olmert said, describing Bush, who leaves office on January 20, as “an unparalleled friend” of Israel.
“They got him off the podium, brought him to another room and I spoke to him. I told him, ‘You can’t vote in favor of this resolution.’ He said, ‘Listen, I don’t know about it, I didn’t see it, I’m not familiar with the phrasing.’”
Olmert said he then told Bush: “‘I’m familiar with it. You can’t vote in favor.’
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 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.
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 she supported. (Additional reporting Paul Eckert and Sue Pleming in Washington and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Doina Chiacu)