The brother of the late King Hussein and an influential Arab leader, the prince wrote in The Sunday Telegraph in London that elections on 15 December will do little to solve the problem of Iraq's Sunni Muslim group feeling isolated.

"The core of the Iraqi insurgency has too much support, both active and passive, to be defeated militarily," the prince wrote.

"Only the horror of an all-out civil war, with perhaps a million more dead, could bring an uncertain end by arms to this ongoing tragedy.

"Nor will insurgents be drawn into politics by inertia. Dialogue, negotiated agreement and compromise must be the tools used to bring Iraq's fragmented representation to the table.

"Many Iraqis welcomed the arrival of the coalition, and with good reason. But the currency of goodwill was quickly spent"

Prince Hassan of Jordan

"Only then can Iraqi nationalists be freed from a temporary and forced alliance with the radicals who claim to represent them."

Prince Hassan said that Iraqi liberation now meant freedom not from Saddam Hussein, the former president, but from the threat of civil war - and the presence of foreign troops.

"Many Iraqis welcomed the arrival of the coalition, and with good reason," he said. "But the currency of goodwill was quickly spent.

Little public support

"Security must be a vital part of nation-building, but it must also go beyond mere knee-jerk reaction to terrorism. In the absence of a contract of good governance, the coalition today enjoys very little public support in Iraq."

The prince said the role of foreign troops was principally to help the government fight the insurgency and prevent all-out civil war, but many Sunnis saw them as "partisan, even sponsors of civil war" when fighting alongside government forces.

He said that if American troops were to stay in the Middle East, then it should be on the basis of reasonable transparency and collective security, for instance through a regional stability pact.

"I hope it is not too late," he said.