The U.N. chief, moving to put into action his accord to open Iraq's presidential palaces to weapons inspectors, was pursuing the Security Council's endorsement Monday for his plan on carrying out the inspections.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan was to circulate his proposed rules for the searches to missions of the 15 Council member-nations Monday and send a top official to Baghdad to lay groundwork for the inspections.Council members are expected to discuss the plan later in the week; it's not at all clear how soon the palace inspections would start after the Security Council acts on it.

Last month, Annan signed an agreement in Baghdad with Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, to open eight presidential palaces to U.N. inspectors seeking to determine whether Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction.

The deal came after the United States and Britain dispatched thousands of troops to the Persian Gulf and threatened air strikes if Iraq continued to bar inspectors from the palaces.

Under Annan's agreement, the inspectors will be accompanied by diplomats to make sure that Iraq's national sovereignty is respected. However, the United States has insisted that the diplomats play no role in the inspection teams' work.

The United States and Britain, Iraq's toughest critics, will be studying the inspection rules proposed by Annan to see whether they meet their demand that the inspectors - not the diplomats - call the shots.

Later Monday, the U.N.'s top disarmament official, Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, was to leave New York for Baghdad to prepare for the inspections.

Dhanapala is expected to meet with Baghdad-based diplomats who will accompany the inspectors and explain the rules. American and British diplomats are not expected to take part because neither country maintains an embassy in Baghdad.

The U.N. Special Commission, which conducts the inspections, wants to use diplomats already stationed in the Iraqi capital to avoid tipping off the Iraqis when inspections would take place.

The inspectors must certify that Iraq has destroyed its banned weapons before the council will lift economic sanctions imposed in 1990 after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, touching off the Gulf War.

Annan also is considering a Russian proposal to name a Russian as a deputy chairman of the Special Commission.

The Russians said the proposal followed a recommendation by the commission's board of directors last November to broaden the national character of the inspections, which Iraq claims are dominated by Americans and Britons.