The US is unlikely to seek UN backing for the force
The United States is to split Iraq into three military sectors under US, British and Polish command, according to a senior US official.
The three zones will be policed by a multinational force to keep the peace, news agencies reported the unnamed official as saying.
The stabilisation force will fall under the overall control of US General Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces in Iraq, the official said.
The disclosure came after US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Iraq was not yet "a fully secure, fully pacified environment".
Speaking in the UK following talks with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr Rumsfeld said it was "not knowable" how long US troops would have to stay in Iraq.
There have been almost daily protests in Iraq against the presence of US troops in the country since US-led forces defeated the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein last month.
About 10 nations have offered to contribute contingents to the stabilisation force, the official was quoted as saying.
COUNTRIES WHICH HAVE OFFERED TROOPS
The multinational troops will reportedly supplement the UK and Polish sectors, but not the American zone.
France, Germany and Russia, which vehemently opposed the war, will not take part, the official was quoted as saying.
The three countries were excluded from an initial planning conference which took place in London on Wednesday.
Britain and Poland will hold follow-up meetings later this month.
The exact size of the stabilisation force is not yet known, although the US sector will comprise about 20,000 troops.
The sectors' boundaries are also still under discussion.
No Arab countries have offered to contribute troops.
"The Arabs want to play a role... but they all want to be careful about longstanding ethnic and religious divisions," French news agency AFP quoted the official as saying.
He said the United States would not seek United Nations' backing for the force.
In other developments:
- US military officials say they have arrested three senior members of Saddam Hussein's regime, including the official in charge of developing Iraqi weapons
- The United Nations says it is re-establishing a permanent presence in Baghdad
- Key Iraqi political parties begin a series of meetings to discuss moves to set up an interim government
- The European Union agrees in principle to the return of EU diplomats to Iraq
- The US formally closes its operation run out of Turkey to monitor a northern no-fly zone in Iraq
- President Bush tells sailors on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln "major combat operations in Iraq have ended"