Unusually harsh denial: The US State Department on Tuesday flatly rejected an assertion by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he caused the Bush administration to abstain from last week's UN resolution on Gaza and embarrassed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Spokesman Sean McCormack said the comments attributed to Olmert "are wholly inaccurate as to describing the situation, just 100%, totally, completely not true" and suggested that the Israeli government might want to clarify or correct the record.
The White House on Tuesday also denied the reports that a telephone call by Olmert to President George W. Bush forced Rice to abstain in the vote on the Gaza war.
"I've seen these press reports, they are inaccurate," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
Olmert said Monday that Rice had been embarrassed by orders from President Bush to abstain from voting on the ceasefire resolution that she was negotiating. The PM said he had called Bush - and interrupted him at an event in Philadelphia - to ensure the United States did not vote for it.
"I said: 'Get me President Bush on the phone,'" Olmert said in a speech in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. "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 got off the podium and spoke to me."
Olmert said he argued that the United States should not vote in favor, and the president then called Rice and told her not to do so. "She was left pretty embarrassed," Olmert said.
'Rice was not at all embarrassed'
McCormack, who pointed out that he was with Rice at the United Nations during the negotiations and vote, denied Olmert's characterization.
"She was not at all embarrassed or ashamed of the actions that we took," he told reporters. "Secretary Rice's recommendation and inclination - the entire time - was to abstain... This idea that somehow she was turned around on this issue is 100% completely untrue."
After the vote, Rice said that the United States fully supported the resolution but abstained because it "thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation," referring to an Egyptian-French initiative aimed at achieving a cease-fire.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said he had been surprised by the US abstention.
"We were told that the Americans were going to vote in favor," he said Friday, a day after the vote. But when Rice came in to the Security Council chamber, she informed the Saudi foreign minister with an apology that she would abstain and would clarify later that the US supported the resolution nonetheless, according to Malki.
"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," he said.