Jordan abruptly withdrew from Security Council consideration today a resolution imposing sanctions on Israel for annexing the Golan Heights after the measure apparently lost supporters critical to obtaining the required nine votes.
As a result, Arab backers of the resolution obtained an indefinite postponement of today's scheduled vote on the Jordanian text and caucused to consider their next move on the Golan issue.
The Panamanian delegation, which had indicated yesterday that it would vote in favor of the resolution, reportedly received word overnight from its government to drop its support.
U.S. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick met last night with the U.N. ambassadors of Zaire and Panama to press the U.S. case, while similar efforts were going on "at the highest level" in Kinshasa and Panama City, U.S. officials said.
The lobbying apparently persuaded both Panama and Zaire--the potential swing votes--to abstain on the Jordanian resolution, leaving it with just eight supporters on the 15-nation council, one shy of the required number.
A U.S. veto of the resolution could have damaged Washington's relations with moderate Arab governments. But by averting the necessity for a U.S. veto, American diplomats effectively have deprived Arab hardliners of the argument that the United States was preventing the world community from punishing Israel's "aggression" in annexing the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War.
But one U.S. diplomat expressed the belief that the Arabs might try to circumvent the stalemated council by convening a special General Assembly session.
There, they are more likely to win a majority for a resolution with tough sanctions, and there is no veto to block it. But assembly resolutions, unlike those of the council, are not legally binding on governments.
The other Arab options are to drop the issue, which seems unlikely, or to water down further their council text to satisfy the objections of Panama and Zaire.
The present Jordanian draft condemns the Golan annexation and declares it an act of aggression and a threat to world peace. It demands that all countries "refrain" from sending military supplies to Israel and suspend aid and trade to the Jewish state.
But the resolution also asks all governments to "consider suspending diplomatic and consular relations with Israel." This apparently discomfited the Panamanians, who have full relations with the Israelis, and Zaire, which quietly has been discussing the resumption of links.