Iceland's president on Thursday put off signing legislation to compensate the Netherlands and the United Kingdom for losses from the collapse of a popular Internet savings bank marketed outside Iceland.
President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson indicated he wanted more time to study the controversial legislation, which was narrowly approved late Wednesday by the Althingi, the national Parliament.
The legislation provides 2.3 billion pounds ($3.8 billion) to Britain and (EURO)1.3 billion ($1.9 billion) to the Netherlands from 2016 to repay expenditures by those nations to compensate citizens who lost money in the collapse of Internet bank Icesave.
Grimsson indicated he would meet with members of InDefence, a grassroots group which opposes compensation, before making a decision.
His approval is required before the legislation becomes law; if he withholds his signature, the legislation will be put to a national referendum.
Iceland must settle the claims arising from the Icesave collapse before it can draw on $4.6 billion in promised bailout funds from the International Monetary Fund and Nordic countries.
Grimsson, who withheld approval of a bill in 2004, had been expected to sign during the customary end-of-year meeting with the government at the presidential residence.
The bill was passed by 33-30 in a sometimes stormy legislative session, and some spectators shouting "treason" after the final vote.
Around a hundred protesters stood outside the parliament building, some throwing snowballs at the building or setting off small firecrackers and fireworks.
The government had reached an agreement with Britain and the Netherlands in June, but the Althingi attached conditions which were unacceptable to the two governments.