The estimated cost of the Persian Gulf war through March totals more than $36 billion, and uncounted expenditures for such things as equipment repair could boost the bill to $60 billion or more, a Pentagon official said.

Pentagon Comptroller Sean O'Keefe told a Capitol Hill panel Wednesday that it is taking the armed services longer than expected to pack up and leave the region, which could affect the final bill.O'Keefe told the House Budget Committee that of $54.6 billion in pledges from coalition partners, about $37.2 billion has been collected.

Figures provided by the Pentagon show that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still have large outstanding pledges, just under $9 billion for Saudi Arabia and about $6.7 billion for Kuwait.

But O'Keefe said Pentagon leaders are confident nations with unfulfilled pledges will meet their commitments.

O'Keefe said the preliminary estimate of $36.1 billion in expenses from Aug. 2 through the end of March does not include such items as equipment repair, rehabilitation, maintenance required by high-use rates and combat stress.

If all the allied contributions of $54.6 billion and the extra $15 billion Congress approved is used, the overall war bill could total $79 billion or more.