The top U.S. diplomat says the United States plans to join Iraq and its neighbors, including Iran and Syria, in talks on stabilizing Iraq.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she hopes Iran and Syria seize this opportunity to improve relations with Iraq -- and to work for peace and stability in the region.
Rice says in prepared remarks Tuesday before a U.S. Senate committee, officials from Iraq's neighbors, the U.S. and other permanent U.N. Security Council members will meet in Baghdad in the first half of March. She says a ministerial meeting could follow as early as the first week in April.
Rice says the violence in Iraq impacts its neighbors. She says those neighboring countries and the international community have a role to play in helping Iraq's government promote peace and national reconciliation in the country.
Critics of the Iraq war have urged the Bush administration to begin a dialogue with Iran and Syria to help stabilize Iraq, which the administration so far has refused.
A State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack did not rule out the possibility of one-on-one discussions between U.S. and Iranian or Syrian officials at the talks.
U.S. military officials in Iraq recently presented evidence of what they say are Iranian manufactured weapons being smuggled into Iraq. U.S. officials also accuse Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross its long and porous border with Iraq to join the insurgency.
In violence Tuesday, a series of bombings and other attacks in Iraq killed more than 20 people.
In addition to those attacks, Iraqi officials said a bombing killed 18 children at a soccer field in the western city of Ramadi. However, the U.S. military said it had no information on such a blast, and said instead that a controlled explosion wounded 30 civilians in Ramadi.
The U.S. military said roadside bomb blasts killed four American soldiers.