U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed Guatemala's approval of an international panel to probe and prosecute illegal armed groups.

A spokesman for Mr. Ban says he believes the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala shows the nation's commitment to the security of its people.

Guatemalan lawmakers voted Wednesday to create the panel, which will investigate organized crime and alleged links between illegal armed groups and Guatemalan authorities.

The team, backed by the Guatemalan government and the U.N., will do independent and joint investigations, working closely with Guatemalan judicial authorities.

The commission will recommend legal action based on its findings.

The U.N. says the panel aims to help Guatemala solidify democracy and the rule of law following the end of its 36-year civil war in 1996.

The U.N. and the Guatemalan government agreed on the commission last December.

Several foreign nations have volunteered to help finance the commission, including the United States.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.