Despite Iraq's deal to open presidential sites to U.N. inspections, weapons experts say they had made "virtually no progress" in the past six months in determining whether Baghdad has destroyed banned weapons.

The U.N. Special Commission, in a report sent today to the Security Council, blamed the lack of progress on a standoff that began last year over Iraq's refusal to open Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's presidential compounds to U.N. inspectors.That crisis, which nearly provoked U.S.-led military strikes, eased Feb. 23 when Secretary-General Kofi Annan signed an agreement with Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz.

Under the agreement, Iraq allowed inspectors accompanied by diplomats to visit the eight sites. The teams reported finding no banned weapons.

The inspectors must give Iraq a clean bill before the Security Council will lift economic sanctions imposed in 1990.

Iraq has demanded the council begin the process of lifting the sanctions and warned Thursday of "future crises" if no progress is made.