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Condoleezza Rice

Rice left embarrassed in UN vote

Condoleezza Rice 29%

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The Security Council resolution passed on Friday calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza was a source of embarrassment for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who helped prepare it but ultimately was ordered to back down from voting for it and abstain, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday.

Rice did not end up voting for Resolution 1860, thanks to a phone conversation Olmert held with US President George Bush shortly before the vote, the prime minister told a meeting of local authority heads in Ashkelon as part of a visit to the South.

Upon receiving word that the US was planning to vote in favor of the resolution - viewed by Israel as impractical and failing to address its security concerns - Olmert demanded to get Bush on the phone, and refused to back down after being told that the president was delivering a lecture in Philadelphia. Bush interrupted his lecture to answer Olmert's call, the premier said.

America could not vote in favor of such a resolution, Olmert told Bush. Soon afterwards, Rice abstained when votes were counted at the UN.

During a visit to the Osem plant in Sderot organized by the Bureau of Economic Organizations, Olmert addressed the state of the war in Gaza, saying that Israel was now at a decisive stage, but had not yet reached the two main goals it set for itself.

"We have no interest in endlessly continuing the campaign. It will stop when the conditions that are essential for Israel's security are met. First and foremost, all terrorist operations against us must stop. The strengthening of the terrorist organizations via the smuggling of war material from Egypt into Gaza must also stop," he said.

"We are dealing with brutal terrorist organizations devoid of the compassion and tolerance which characterize us. The blow that we have inflicted on them is unprecedented in its strength," Olmert added.

In a clear reference to Hizbullah, Olmert said, "We hope that nobody will test either our determination or our resiliency on any other front."

Olmert was accompanied by Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On; Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit; Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai; Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh and Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini.

Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin told The Jerusalem Post his message for Olmert was "not to stop the fire until the threat of rockets is lifted from Ashkelon for years to come."

Vaknin praised the cooperation between the central government and local authorities, adding that he backed a proposal by Sheetrit for a NIS 300 million aid package to the South to help the region deal with reconstruction efforts.

"I will demand the most from the aid package because we received the most rockets," Vaknin added. The mayor proudly noted that a poll of local residents in the city found that 86 percent were satisfied with the municipality's management during wartime.

Military officials told the Ashkelon conference that 800 trucks of humanitarian aid had entered Gaza since the start of Operation Cast Lead, and that Israel had repaired electric and sewage infrastructures in the Strip throughout the fighting.

Rocket attacks were noticeably lower since the start of the war, the military officials said, adding that two weeks ag. the rocket attacks numbered in the 80s, while the current number of daily rocket launches from Gaza has plunged to the 20s.

 

By YAAKOV LAPPIN

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