US and Iraqi forces launched a major security crackdown in Baghdad earlier this month but insurgents have kept up their campaign of bombings and suicide attacks.
 
US commanders said they have noticed increased insurgent violence outside the capital, as militants seem to be focusing their attacks elsewhere.
 
In a bid to to find ways to stabilise the country, Hoshiyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, said on Tuesday that officials from regional states including Iran and Syria would join US and British envoys at a meeting in Baghdad in March.
 
"Our hope is that this will be an ice-breaking attempt for maybe holding other meetings in the future. We want Iraq, instead of being a divisive issue, to be a unifying issue."
 
In December, the bipartisan US Iraq Study Group issued a report on the Iraq war in which it recommended that the US hold direct talks with Damascus and Tehran to persuade them to help stem the violence in Iraq.
 
George Bush, the US president, reacted coolly to that proposal. Bush has not ruled out a regional conference to help Iraq, involving Iran and Syria, but the White House has indicated Iraq would have to set it up.