Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who oversaw the disarmament of Iraq from 1991 to 1997, has been ruled out as head of a new arms inspection agency because of opposition from China and Russia, according to senior diplomats.

Ekeus, one of three candidates proposed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday, was blocked on the grounds that new blood is needed for the inspection agency and that Iraq would never agree to cooperate with him, diplomats said.

Celso Amorim, a Brazilian with little disarmament experience, also was dropped from the running because of objections from Washington and London, they said. Pasi Patokallio, a Finnish arms control expert, was the last of Annan's informal nominees in contention.

But China, backed by Malaysia, pressed Annan to search for candidates from Third World countries to head the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC.

China's deputy representative at the U.N., Shen Guofang, said he hoped that Annan would appeal to South Africa to release Abdul Minty, a foreign ministry official, from his duties. The South African government declined an earlier invitation to nominate Minty.

Malaysia's ambassador, meanwhile, proposed two Indonesians for the post: former foreign minister Ali Alatas and former U.N ambassador Nugroho Wisnumurti.

Annan is scheduled to name a candidate for the Security Council's approval by Sunday. "It's been a bit more complicated than one would have expected," he said.