While the U.N. Security Council discussed a resolution to enforce an accord opening Iraqi sites to U.N. inspectors, U.N. chief Kofi Annan moved quickly to fulfill a key element of the agreement.
Creation of the team was a critical part of the accord reached last weekend between Annan and Iraqi leaders, a deal that averted a U.S.-led military strike on Iraq.
The United States and Britain, meanwhile, were pushing for a resolution to back the deal with specific penalties if Iraq violates the agreement.
Iraq would face the "severest consequences" if it violated the accord with Annan, according to a draft resolution obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
The draft, crafted by the British in close consultation with the Americans, also stresses that any procedures relating to access to presidential sites must conform to past Security Council resolutions.
Security Council members may still be working on the document. Several permanent members, namely Russia, France and China, have said they wouldn't accept any resolution threatening force for Iraqi non-compliance.
Council members met informally for over an hour and a half Wednesday but produced no resolution. Consultations will resume Thursday, according to Britain's U.N. ambassador, John Weston.
"We just had an extremely good and reassuring discussion," Weston said Wednesday.
Annan negotiated the accord over the weekend with Saddam. It would open eight presidential sites that Baghdad had declared off-limits to U.N. inspectors, provided that the inspectors were accompanied by a team of diplomats chosen by Annan.
U.N. officials confirmed Dhanapala's appointment as head of the team Wednesday; it was to be formally announced today.
Dhanapala, 59, was appointed U.N. under secretary-general for disarmament affairs just last month, overseeing U.N. efforts to reduce the number of nuclear and conventional weapons. The Sri Lankan had been considered a top candidate to replace Boutros Boutros-Ghali as U.N. secretary-general in 1996 - a position that eventually went to Annan.
America's U.N. ambassador, Bill Richardson defended the agreement Wednesday against criticism from the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Trent Lott, who called it a sellout to Saddam.
"We believe this is a good agreement," Richardson said. "We see the British initiative as a good way to enforce the agreement."
Formal council approval of Annan's accord isn't required legally. But a resolution would give the agreement political clout, and if the United States an Britain are successful would codify any response if Saddam reneged.
A resolution should uphold the idea that a violation could prompt air strikes by U.S. and allied forces, Richardson said.
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer. ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed