TUNIS (Reuters) - The United States will keep control of the domain-name system that guides Internet traffic under an agreement reached on Wednesday, resolving a dispute that threatened to fracture the global computer network. Negotiators at the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society said they had agreed to set up a forum to discuss "spam" e-mail and other Internet issues and explore ways to narrow the technology gap between rich and poor countries. But that forum will have no power to regulate the Internet or wrest control of the domain-name system from the United States, as many countries had sought. "Let me be absolutely clear: the United Nations does not want to take over, police or otherwise control the Internet," said U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. "Day-to-day running of the Internet must be left to technical institutions, not least to shield it from the heat of day to day politics." Negotiators from all sides said they were happy that they had reached a settlement, though they described the result in different terms. "There's nothing new in this document that wasn't already out there before," said Ambassador David Gross, the head of the U.S. delegation. "We have no concerns that it could morph into something unsavoury." German deputy economics minister Bernd Pfaffenbach said the agreement could lead to eventual international oversight of the domain-name system. "You can argue they have conserved the situation for today but not for the future," he told Reuters. "We want influence on the decision, we want to be asked if there is a structural change," he told Reuters. BRINGING TECHNOLOGY TO DEVELOPING WORLD The meeting was launched two years ago with a focus on bringing technology to the developing world, but U.S. control of the domain-name system had become a sticking point for countries like Iran and Brazil, who argued that it should be managed by the United Nations or some other global body. The United States argued that such a body would stifle innovation with red tape. If unresolved, the dispute could have led to a splintering of the Internet as dissatisfied countries set up domain-name systems of their own. In that case, users on opposite sides of the globe would reach different Web sites when they typed "reuters.com" into their browsers. Under the agreement, a California non-profit body known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, will continue to oversee the system that matches domain names with numerical addresses that computers can understand. ICANN can't make any changes to the domain-name system without approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The approval gives individual countries greater control over their own domains, such as China's .cn or France's .fr. Disputes have arisen on occasion between national governments and the independent administrators assigned to manage these domains by ICANN. Businesses, technical experts and human-rights groups will be allowed to participate along with governments in the forum, which will first meet in early 2006. Though the new forum will not have any power of its own, it could pressure ICANN and other Internet groups to change, one independent observer said. "I think in claiming a victory the U.S. probably has more in the document than do other people," said Jeremy Shtern, a University of Montreal researcher. "Nonetheless, I think it represents a move in a direction that the U.S. may or may not want to see come to fruition."