COUNCILLORS who are against the election of Pendle's first Asian Mayor today revealed they would not take their seats at a council meeting until after he has been voted in.

The Liberal Democrat group, which has 23 members on the authority, have already opposed Coun Mohammad Iqbal and said they do not think he is the appropriate person to represent Pendle as a whole.

They will not take their seats in the council chamber tomorrow until after he has been elected.

The group said that they will not vote against him again because they want to keep the system that ensures each party gets to nominate the Deputy Mayor according to their strength on the council.

Councillor Frank Clifford, the new leader of the Labour group, said he was surprised and disappointed by the news and urged the Liberal Democrats to think carefully about the move.

He said: "Coun Iqbal is very suitable to hold the office and I am speaking after holding the office myself and I have nothing but the highest regard for the man's integrity.

"In the interests of community cohesion, he will be appointing Rev Ed Saville to be joint chaplain along with his mosque Imam, Mr Shah.

"The protocol which has existed throughout Pendle since its existence has always been on a points basis and in this case it's the Labour group's choice.

"I would just appeal to Coun Davies to think a little more carefully about this. As incoming leader of the council, it does not bode well for the next 12 months taking this very decisive stance."

Councillor Alan Davies, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: "We made clear our views on Iqbal's mayoralty at the last full council meeting when Labour broke several of the rules that have held strong for almost a quarter of a century in Pendle. We don't want him as our mayor but will stick to the principles we argued a month ago.

"In future years, Pendle will get good mayors by preserving the system and not giving others excuses to break them again."

Coun Fred Hartley had been the Deputy Mayor of Pendle during the past 12 months and, as tradition stated, was expected to become the Mayor for 2003/2004.

But in a turnabout Labour proposed Coun Iqbal instead, which led to Coun Hartley cutting up his Labour membership card and vowing to have nothing more to do with the group.