A United Nations panel has awarded more than $200 million in damages arising from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The bulk of the awards were made to families of more than 600 Kuwaitis who disappeared during the war.

Deadlines for individual claims for serious personal injury, death of a close relative or loss of property passed years ago. However, the U.N. compensation commission made an exception for the Kuwaiti families of the 605 men who disappeared during the 1990 Gulf war. The commission recognized that the families were not able to file their claims for compensation sooner, because they did not know what had happened to their missing relatives.

A spokesman for the U.N. commission, Joe Sills, says the issue was resolved after last year's U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, when the bodies of the missing Kuwaitis were found in mass graves, and their identification was verified.

"For some 13 years, their families have lived without knowing what their fate was," he said. "And, the Commission dealt with this, and they agreed on a ceiling figure of $200,000 for each of these claims."

This is considerably less than the $720,000 sought by the Kuwaiti government for each family. However, Mr. Sills says the awards are only for mental pain and anguish. He says families have until the end of this month to claim compensation for loss of, or damage to, property.

Since the commission was set up, it has received claims totaling $350 billion from individuals, companies and nearly 100 governments. It has approved awards of $48 billion, of which it has paid out $18.2 billion.

Funds to pay compensation have been generated from the sale of Iraqi oil under the U.N.'s "oil-for-food" program. The commission originally received 30 percent from the oil sales. This later was reduced to 25 percent. Last May, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the U.N. Security Council did away with the "oil-for-food" program. It reduced the amount of money deposited into the Compensation Fund to five percent of all export sales of Iraqi petroleum.