The United States has signalled for the first time that it might accept a UN-mandated multinational force in Iraq provided it is led by an American.
Armitage signalled that the US may be more flexible on Iraq
US deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a group of American journalists that one idea being considered was a multinational force under UN leadership, but that "the American would be the UN commander".
Britain and the United States - whose troops are struggling to restore law and order to Iraq - are trying to hammer out a new UN resolution which could draw in key nations like India, Pakistan, Turkey and Japan.
Mr Armitage said US officials were considering "widening decision-making" in Iraq, but he did not elaborate further.
Washington insists it will not yield command and control of the US-led force in Iraq.
But the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says the United States now appears to be softening its position in the face of international pressure and domestic criticism.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan suggested last week that a new Security Council resolution could be sought which gave UN blessing to the occupation force in Iraq but did not turn it into a UN operation.
Countries which opposed the US-led war in Iraq - notably France, Germany and Russia - have demanded a greater UN role, refusing to contribute troops to the current occupying force.
Mr Annan warned that the United States would find it "very difficult" to get a new UN Security Council resolution adopted on expanding military forces on the ground if it failed to boost the UN's role.
The United States has about 140,000 troops in Iraq, supported by about 21,000 other troops - 11,000 of them British.
Many countries have expressed a willingness to assist in Iraq, but they do not want the stigma of serving under an occupying force which has yet to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
Correspondents say the proposal outlined by Mr Annan - UN endorsement but not deployment of UN forces - is similar to the formula used for the French-led intervention in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
PLANNED MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE FOR IRAQ
Multi-national force: This will be the largest mission of its kind to take place without UN co-ordination or central Nato command
Cost: US reportedly expected to pay partner nations a total of more than $200m in airlift and support costs
Twenty-seven nations have sent troops:
Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the
Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras,
Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia,
the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South
Korea, Spain, UK, Ukraine
Several nations' troops are expected:
Moldova, Philippines, Portugal - Japan and Thailand have however expressed reservations