But a senior Arab official said Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan could boycott the Damascus meeting scheduled to begin on Saturday if Iraq itself does not take part.

"A few of us, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, don’t see the logic of a meeting without Iraq, especially since it was called for by Syria to discuss Iraq," the official said on grounds of anonymity.

He however added that Syria was considering inviting Iraq after the Damascus meeting.

Iraqi interim foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari meanwhile has left Baghdad on Friday to take part in the meeting in Damascus.

A Syrian foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed that an invitation had been sent to Zebari, "but the participants at the meeting will debate his participation on Saturday."

Iraqi appeal

The Iraqi interim foreign minister is said to be carrying a message from the Governing Council "which asks neighbours to help Iraq overcome terrorist operations."

Those invited to attend the meeting are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Kuwait.

"It is only natural that the meeting should address the difficulties of the Iraqi people and try to find the means to put an end to the occupation," a Syrian foreign ministry spokesman said.

A key issue at the Damascus meeting will be the propriety of contributing troops to a stabilization force in Iraq.

Under US pressure, only Turkey has so far agreed to send troops, although no action has been taken on the ground.