Imad Shabib, a member of Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party, said the meetings on Wednesday were seeking to "forge unity in Iraq away from confessional differences" in the run-up to the 30 January polls.

Allawi met for two hours with Iraqi tribal chiefs and businessmen before holding talks with King Abd Allah, who promised total support for elections and insisted they must be comprehensive.

Jordan "will fully support the Iraqi government in its efforts to hold elections across Iraq with the participation of all the Iraqi people, without exception", state television quoted the king as saying.

Amman "will continue to back Iraq ... and train Iraqi security forces and police", he told Allawi.

Late last year Jordan agreed to train 32,000 Iraqi police on its territory as part of a US-led programme. More than 7000 Iraqi cadets have already graduated from the course.

Relentless violence

Allawi's spokesman Thair al-Naqib said earlier the prime minister would ask the king for help in ensuring the elections are held on time despite relentless violence that some parties say could scupper hopes of a truly nationwide vote.

"We want a united Iraq. Not a confessional or ethnic one," the head of the Dulaim tribe of Iraq's western Al-Anbar province said after talks with Allawi in a heavily guarded Amman five-star hotel.

"We want a united Iraq. Not a confessional or ethnic one"

Statement by the head of Iraq's Dulaim tribe

Al-Anbar is home of the city of Falluja where US-led forces last month launched a massive onslaught, one of a series of offensives against anti-US fighters before the elections.

Several businessmen were also invited to meet with Allawi, his aides said.

Allawi is to hold further talks in Amman on 8 December with almost 120 Iraqi exiled political personalities who lived abroad during the former government of Saddam Hussein.

"There is an important Iraqi community in Jordan and we wish them to participate in the electoral process," Naqib said of about 100,000 Iraqis who live in Jordan according to unofficial estimates.

Election doubts

Many members of Saddam's Baath party also now live in Jordan, including former parliament speaker Saadun Hammadi, but Naqib said Allawi - a former Baathist himself before fleeing into exile - would not meet anyone linked to the ousted government.

Ten key Iraqi parties, including Allawi's National Accord, have called for a six-month delay, arguing that continued violence does not allow for the organisation of viable polls across the country.

US-led forces are waging war
against Iraqi opponents

But Allawi is adamant the vote should be held on time.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Defence Minister Hazem Shaalan cast fresh doubt on the date of the vote, telling reporters in Rome that security conditions still fell short of what was required.

Iraq's interim constitution clearly states that elections should be held before the end of January.

Delaying them would leave the current unelected government in a legal vacuum and anger the country's Shia community, who expect to form the largest bloc after the elections.