UNITED NATIONS - The United States and Britain came under pressure at the UN Security Council to hand over confidential information on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
UN sources said fellow permanent council members France and Russia led the charge for the handover of the unseen parts of the interim report from the Iraq Survey Group, a team of around 1,400 experts coming the country for WMD.
Controversy has raged over whether the Baghdad regime had WMD, cited as a main reason for the US-led war that ousted Saddam Hussein earlier this year. The Iraq group's report in October said none had been found so far.
The two countries told the closed-door meeting that they want the report to be handed over to UNMOVIC, the UN arms team which monitored Baghdad's weapons programmes but left before the start of the war in March.
A US spokesman at the United Nations downplayed the requests and said the US-led coalition in Iraq had been regularly "supplying information" about the hunt for the alleged banned weapons.
The call from Russia and France followed a presentation to the council from acting UNMOVIC chairman Demetrius Perricos, who was introducing the latest update report from the still-functioning UN inspection team.
Among other details, the update noted that 1.5 million dollars per month is now being spent on UMMOVIC, which says it is ready to resume the search if authorised to do so by the Security Council.
The update also said that more than 90 computers left behind when UNMOVIC pulled out of Iraq in March on the eve of the war were subsequently ransacked, with their processors, hard drives and memory chips stolen.
It said the drives were erased before departure and that "ordinary computer users and experts" would not be able to pull data from them. The US-led coalition was said to be investigating the incident.
UN weapons inspectors were tasked with verifying that Iraq had no biological, chemical or nuclear arms under a Security Council resolution passed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which set off the 1991 Gulf war.
© Copyright 2003 AFP