JERUSALEM (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was left shame-faced after President George W. Bush ordered her to abstain in a key UN vote on the Gaza war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday.

“She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favour,” Olmert said in a speech in the southern town of Ashkelon.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution last Thursday calling for an immediate ceasefire in the three-week-old conflict in the Gaza Strip and an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza where hundreds have been killed.

Fourteen of the council’s 15 members voted in favour of the resolution, which was later rejected by both Israel and Hamas.

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

“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 favour,” Olmert said.

“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 got off the podium and spoke to me.

“I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour.”

Bush has consistently placed the blame for the conflict on Hamas, telling reporters on Monday that while he wanted to see a “sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza, it was up to Hamas to choose to end its rocket fire on Israel.

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

“Mr. Olmert is wrong,” the official said.

Even if everything had gone according to plan, “she would have abstained. That was the plan,” said the official. “The government of Israel does not make US policy.”

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