GENEVA (AP) _ Dampened by war and recession, international passenger traffic on 200 major airlines was down an average 12 percent in the first five months of this year, an industry group said Wednesday.

Airlines also lost $2.5 billion from January through March, the International Air Transport Association said.

The Gulf War, which increased passenger fears about terrorism, curtailed international travel early this year.

But the recession in the United States and several other major industrial countries continues to cut into business travel, the airline industry's greatest profit source, IATA spokesman John Brindley said.

''I cannot yet talk about light at the end of the tunnel following the Gulf crisis,'' IATA director general Guenter Eser of Germany said in a statement. Scheduled international passenger traffic on IATA members - which include U.S. carriers - was down an average of 12 percent in January-May over the same period last year, IATA said. In May, traffic was down 5 percent from last year.