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Annan now focusing on a team of diplomats

Despite U.S. concerns about his newly minted agreement with Iraq, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is turning his attention to appointing a team of diplomats to join inspections of the most sensitive suspected weapons sites in Iraq.

Annan has given no hint about who will be on the team or who will lead it - two key questions Washington wants answered before it gives its full backing to Annan's accord. Depending on whom he selects, Iraq could end up with diplomats more friendly to its interests.Russia's U.N. ambassador, Sergey Lavrov, said he was certain Annan would balance the nationalities of the senior diplomats, since Iraq has complained that U.N. inspection teams were dominated by Britons and Americans.

"This has to be a representative team," Lavrov said Tuesday after Annan briefed the Security Council on the accord for more than three hours. The Security Council was to meet again Wednesday.

In urging Annan to act quickly, Lavrov also said he wouldn't expect a team leader to be from a permanent council member state - Russia, the United States, Britain, France or China. "I think a neutral country would be much more appropriate," he said.

Annan returned triumphantly to the United Nations on Tuesday, predicting unanimous approval for the accord, which he says meets the demands of Security Council resolutions: unfettered U.N. access to all sites suspected of harboring weapons of mass destruction.