The French embassy on Thursday approached the White House and the US Department of State to express anger at the way the allegations were made public.

"The ambassador told the White House and the state department of our displeasure concerning the methods used," a French embassy official said.

The official said France was particularly unhappy about "the fact that the names of individuals and companies were made public without any apparent attempt to verify the allegations and without giving them an opportunity to explain themselves".

Report

Charles Duelfer, the US chief weapons inspector in Iraq, in his report on Wednesday said the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein paid millions of dollars in cash and petrol export vouchers to elicit help in his bid to end UN sanctions against his country.

Mentioned in the report are former French interior minister Charles Pasqua and Patrick Maugein, and an official of the French petroleum company Soco International said to be close to French President Jacques Chirac.

Pasqua and Maugein have strenuously denied accepting bribes.

Duelfer's report, citing documents recovered from Saddam's intelligence services, said the Iraqi payments particularly targeted French political, economic and media circles.

The report refers to a list published last January by a Baghdad newspaper of some 200 names from 40 countries who allegedly peddled influence with Iraq in return for export vouchers for millions of barrels of oil.