Olmert says called Bush to force change in U.N. vote

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said a telephone call he made to U.S. President George W. Bush last week forced Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to abstain in a U.N. vote on the Gaza war, leaving her “shamed.”

Pouring on political bravado in a speech late Monday, Olmert said he demanded to talk to Bush with only 10 minutes to spare before a U.N. Security Council vote Thursday on a resolution opposed by Israel calling for an immediate cease-fire.

“When we saw that the secretary of state, for reasons we did not really understand, wanted to vote in favour of the U.N. resolution … I looked for President Bush and they told me he was in Philadelphia making a speech,” Olmert said.

“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 favour 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 favour.’

“He gave an order to the secretary of state and she did not vote in favour of it — a resolution she cooked up, phrased, organised and manoeuvred for. She was left pretty shamed and abstained on a resolution she arranged,” Olmert said.

Fourteen of the Security Council’s 15 members supported the resolution, which has failed to halt Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip and Hamas’s cross-border rocket fire.

Olmert, under police investigation over alleged corruption, resigned as prime minister in September but is serving in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed after Israel’s February 10 parliamentary election.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Alistair Lyon)

Tue Jan 13, 2009 1:52pm GMT

Source: Reuters

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