BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraqi authorities will allow a team of experts to remove chemicals and mustard gas left behind by weapons inspectors when they departed Baghdad last year, a U.N. envoy announced Thursday.

Prakash Shah, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's representative in Iraq, said authorities have pledged to cooperate with the team, which will include five independent experts in chemical and biological warfare.

``Iraq is extremely keen to settle this matter without much delay in order to be sure there are no hazards regarding U.N. staff or people around,'' he said.

But Shah said Iraq's approval, obtained early Thursday, is on the condition that none of the experts have connections with U.N. Special Commission weapons inspectors.

In New York, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard confirmed that an understanding had been reached with Iraq to send ``independent technical experts, who would be accompanied by U.N. staff as well as by diplomatic observers.''

UNSCOM closed its Baghdad Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Center shortly before the United States and Britain launched airstrikes against Iraq in December 1998 for the country's alleged failure to cooperate with the inspectors.

Iraq has vowed not to let UNSCOM back into the country.

Early this month, Russia called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to demand information about the chemicals left behind in UNSCOM's chemical and biological labs.

Shah did not say how much toxic materials were left in the building, which also houses about 150 U.N. staff supervising the implementation of Iraq's oil-for-food deal with the United Nations.

Shah said he expects the team, including Security Council observers and one UNSCOM administrator, to be in Iraq by the end of the month. The experts, in coordination with Iraqi counterparts, will dispose of the chemicals in Iraq.