President Bush overrules Rice on Gaza

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was visibly frustrated when the White House told her to veto a resolution demanding a Hamas-Israeli cease-fire - a resolution she had spent three days negotiating.

The White House said its decision reflected an understanding reached between President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Miss Rice persuaded the White House to abstain from voting on the resolution, which passed by a vote of 14-0, said a U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of last week’s events. The official requested anonymity to avoid embarrassing the Bush administration.

Israel and Hamas then ignored the resolution, demonstrating a pattern that routinely bedevils the nominally powerful U.N. Security Council.

The council has a long history of having its resolutions ignored. Recent examples include:

• Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly rejected the council’s unanimous demands that Iran halt uranium enrichment.

• Saddam Hussein accepted U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq with grudging reluctance and often did not provide the full cooperation with them demanded by the council.

• Multiple calls for restraint have gone unanswered by Congo, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Myanmar.

Non-state actors are even less affected: Somali pirates, for example, have shown little fear after their censure by the council.

“We are all very conscious that peace is made on the ground while resolutions are written at the United Nations,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said during last week’s negotiations over the Israeli-Hamas resolution.

“Our job is to support … and to encourage changes on the ground that are desperately needed.”

Still, the Security Council has taken an increasing number of hits lately over pronouncements that are increasingly seen as weakly worded, watered down, late or just plain irrelevant.

Diplomats who have served on the council express frustration with their inability to affect pressing issues of peace and security and wonder whether the incoming Obama administration will be able to stop this trend. Last week’s debate was a case in point. As a dozen foreign ministers labored in secrecy in the U.N. basement to reach mutually acceptable language, soldiers continued to fight.

“The council must put an immediate end to the current hostilities,” Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa demanded to little effect. “The 15-member body’s credibility, as well as that of the wider United Nations, is at stake today.”

General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann was so outraged at the council’s fecklessness that he scheduled a meeting of that body to issue the assembly’s own alternative resolution.

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