By Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 15 (Reuters) - U.N. Security Council members pressed Uganda and Rwanda on Wednesday to cooperate with U.N. experts seeking to end the illegal trade in minerals plundered from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Council members "were disturbed that a number of countries were still not fully cooperating with the experts," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said following a closed-door council briefing on the four U.N. experts' latest findings.
"We think that cooperation is critical," Bolton, the council president for February, told reporters. "We urge the experts and others to do what they can to get cooperation to acceptable levels."
Bolton named no names, but the experts, in a Jan. 27 report, had accused Uganda and Rwanda of refusing to provide them with straight answers about their role in the exploitation of Congo's mineral resources.
Three years after a peace agreement ended Congo's five-year civil war, which drew in most of the vast central African nation's neighbors, some of those neighbors are still believed to play active roles in the illegal export of its resources including gold, diamonds, medicinal barks, cobalt and copper.
Until Congo's industry, mining and transport networks are brought firmly under state control, "it will be impossible to ensure peace and security" in the country, the report said.
Uganda is suspected of facilitating the illegal export of Congolese gold while Rwanda is believed to be helping smuggle out tin ore, the experts said.
When asked about their activities, both countries provided erroneous and unreliable information, they said.
Their responses were "not only erroneous but lack basic logic that cannot be solely attributed to a lack of capacity," the experts' report said.
"A few hours of work by Ugandan and Rwandan officials, for example through the collection of data from the relevant companies involved, would immediately reveal the inconsistencies in the information supplied thus far to the group," they said.