With only minutes to spare, Britain and its European Community partners worked around the objections of two restive members and effectively won a week's extension of a ban on imports from Argentina.
Today's decision preserved the appearance of European solidarity with Britain in the Falkland Islands crisis. But the relatively brief extension of the month-old ban and the open reluctance of Italy and Ireland to go along with the other members of the 10-nation group revealed deep cracks beneath the surface, shaking Britain's hopes of keeping economic pressure on Argentina.
Italy's cooperation is especially important if the ban is to be effective since Italy is the second-largest importer of Argentine goods into Europe after West Germany.
Only seven of Britain's nine partners agreed to extend the import ban. Italy and Ireland, which have grown increasingly uneasy about the use of British military power to resolve the crisis, cloaked their agreement not to resume imports in ambiguous legalism.
The two announced that they were suspending their observance of the embargo. However, they also pledged to follow rules against "a distortion of trade" within the community, a move that would stall their actual ending of the embargo.
Community foreign ministers have scheduled another meeting next Monday to review the sanctions issue again if necessary.