The Security Council, meeting late Saturday, postponed until Monday a vote on a resolution on ways of protecting Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories to allow more time for negotiations on the text.
The sponsors of the resolution, which includes a paragraph opposed by the United States endorsing an international peace conference on the Middle East, had insisted on an immediate vote.But in an unusual procedural move, the Soviet Union offered a motion to adjourn the meeting until Monday. It obtained the nine votes required for adoption.
The four sponsors of the resolution - Colombia, Cuba, Malaysia and Yemen - voted against postponement. France and China abstained.
The main point of contention is the reference to a Middle East peace parley. This is favored by Arab states and most other countries but rejected by Israel, which considers direct negotiations with its neighbors as the only route to peace.
During private consultations that preceded the meeting, the United States proposed removing the reference to a conference from the resolution and placing it in a separate statement.
The United States is anxious not to veto the resolution, whose main focus is on action to protect the inhabitants of the Israeli-occupied territories, for fear of the effects on the alliance it has forged with a number of Arab countries in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
The United States has said in the past it would approve a properly structured Middle East conference at an appropriate time. But it believes that, in view of the unusual attention given to that issue in recent days, its inclusion in the resolution might be interpreted as a concession to Iraq, which has called for linking a solution to the gulf crisis to a resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict.