An initiative of the Swedish government, the international commission that Blix would head will start functioning later this year.

“We must do all we can to counteract the menace of weapons of mass destruction,” Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said.

“We are happy that Hans Blix has accepted the leadership of the commission,” the minister added.

The commission is expected to report its findings in 2005.

A Swede by birth, Blix retired on Monday as the UN’s chief weapons inspector after what is widely regarded as a truly tumultuous term in office.

Blix had fallen foul with the United States in the run up to the Iraq war, maintaining all the while that Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction “might exist, might not exist.”

This was in direct contradiction to forceful US assertions that Iraq had an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

Blix had also been a vocal critic of the Iraq war and the haste it was brought about.

The Swedish Foreign Minister said it was not clear yet which nations would join the commission but added many countries had expressed an interest.

She also said a decision about the name of the commission and how it would function would be made later this year.