UNITED NATIONS — Several members of the U.N. Security Council, hoping to isolate the United States in the international forum, on Monday delayed a vote condemning the American downing of two Libyan warplanes and worked to soften the rebuke in an effort to win broader support.
The United States appeared Monday to have picked up support from France, whose ambassador delivered a speech expressing deep regret over the incident Wednesday but accepting Washington's claim that the incident was unrelated to concerns about Libya's alleged chemical weapons production.
The United States, which has declared that its Navy jets acted in self-defense, is expected to veto virtually any resolution criticizing the actions of U.S. forces in the Mediterranean last week.
Britain, which has called the downing a justifiable act of self-defense, is expected to join the United States in vetoing the resolution.
But Libya and some members of the nonaligned bloc led by Algeria and Yugoslavia hope to force the United States and Britain to act alone in blocking the motion when the 15 nations of the Security Council vote on the measure as early as today.
As a result, leaders of the Nonaligned Movement, a bloc of roughly 100 nations, adjourned to recast the measure throughout the afternoon Monday. The draft resolution to be considered today would strongly deplore rather than condemn the downing of the Libyan planes and call on member nations to resolve their conflicts by negotiation rather than by armed strikes.
The resolution also would drop earlier references to the American "armed attack" and to "the provocation" of Libya.
In drafting the newest version, nonaligned members considered dropping demands that the U.S. Navy stop its maneuvers off the coast of Libya and withdraw from the area but in the end retained that language. France, a strong naval power in the Mediterranean, indicated Monday that it could not accept a measure that would limit passage through that area.
Libya hopes to win France's support, or at least its abstention, with the new language and to persuade other Western-oriented fence-sitters not to block the measure. Among the other Security Council members still uncommitted were Canada, Finland and Brazil.
In a speech Monday, Finland's U.N. ambassador, Klaus Tornudd, called on the Security Council to "deplore the incident that has occurred" and draw up a code of behavior for military forces operating in close proximity in international waters.
Vernon A. Walters, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday's Security Council debate was "considerably more temperate" than the exchanges of last Friday. But he added that any of the resolutions currently under consideration will draw a U.S. veto.