Speaking on the first day of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Straw however sidestepped questions about whether the occupying-powers would give in to demands by a leading Shia cleric for early elections in Iraq.

"Our job is not to dictate Iraq's future, but to support the consensus of Iraqi opinion," Straw said on Wednesday.

Iraq, along with Iran in political turmoil, is topping the agenda at the five-day meeting of the world's 2200 top-ranking political and business elite in the Swiss ski resort.

Asked whether the occupying powers were worried about the emergence of a government dominated by the Shia, Straw stayed neutral but said, "sometimes people who you don’t want, win. It's called democracy."

Iraqi integrity

"Our job is not to dictate Iraq's future, but to support the consensus of Iraqi opinion"

Jack Straw,
UK Foreign Secretary

Straw said the occupiers remained committed to maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity, but acknowledged it had to take into account the Kurds in the north who are seeking more autonomy.

The foreign minister admitted discussions were still under way on a possible compromise on US plans to pick Iraq's interim government through caucuses.

His remarks came on a day when the London-based Guardian newspaper reported that the UK now backs early direct elections in Iraq and was pressing for a poll before the transfer of sovereignty this year.

US had planned full elections only next year.