In a gesture of deference toward Islamic holy days, the U.N. Security Council on Monday postponed for a day its vote to clamp punishing trade and diplomatic sanctions on Libya for refusing to surrender suspects in two airline bombings.
The delay until today was requested by U.S. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering at the personal urging of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Arab envoys, diplomats said.
"We had a request from leaders whose relationship to us (in the Middle East) is an important one," Pickering told reporters.
Council President Diego Arria cited the Muslim holiday of Leilat al Kadr, marking the 27th day of the fast month of Ramadan, as the reason for the 24-hour postponement.
"The council reacted in deference to the religious day," said Arria. "The text has now been agreed on, the vote is tomorrow."
The latest draft of the resolution, sponsored by the United States, Britain and France, would impose a ban on air travel and weapons trade, require the expulsion of some Libyan diplomats abroad and insist that Libya demonstrate "by concrete actions" that it has renounced terrorism.
The sanctions would not be imposed until April 15. But if, as seems likely, the council adopts the resolution, it would be difficult to rescind, even if Libya does make some gestures of compliance.
Libya then would have to meet every demand in the resolution before the council, on which the United States, Britain and France have veto power, would lift the sanctions.
Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi so far has refused to surrender two agents indicted by the United States and Britain for involvement in the 1988 bombing of a Pan American Airways aircraft over Lockerbie, Scotland. A total of 270 people perished.
In addition, France wants to question four other Libyans in the bombing of a UTA airliner over the Sahara in Niger in September, 1989, in which 171 people were killed.