But the UN Compensation Commission, whose governing council ended three days of talks on Thursday, rejected the rest of the $23 billion in claims submitted by six countries - Kuwait, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey.

   

"The total approved was $2.9 billion. Of that $2.28 billion went to Kuwait and $625 million to Saudi Arabia," plus $188,000 to Iran, said UNCC spokesman Joe Sills after the decision was taken at closed-door talks in Geneva.

 

Public health

   

Iraq's neighbours have asked for a total $87 billion to clean up oil lakes, restore coastlines and fish stocks, and deal with public health problems dating back to the occupation of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War.

   

The UNCC, which receives 5% of the revenue from Iraq's oil exports to settle compensation claims, will decide on the rest of the claims at its June session. Its share of Iraqi oil exports was $800 million in 2003.

   

It has received claims for $350 billion from individuals, companies and governments, has approved payment of some $51.8 billion and paid out nearly $18.8 billion.