The Iraqi government should back away from executing three prisoners under the newly-reintroduced death penalty, says the UN representative in Iraq.
Ashraf Qazi says Iraq should be consolidating the right to life
The three men are due to be executed in the central city of Kut in the next few days for murder, kidnap and rape.
They would be the first prisoners to be executed since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein two years ago.
The UN's Ashraf Qazi said he deeply a
regretted the reintroduction of the death penalty.
"One should look at consolidating the right to life instead of imposing the death penalty, which has a very poor recognised effect in deterring crimes," said Mr Qazi in a statement.
The three prisoners - a Kurdish man and two Sunni Arabs - are thought most likely to be killed by hanging, the method used under the old Iraqi criminal law.
A decree authorising the execution was signed this week by Iraqi vice-president Adel Abdel Mehdi.
The country's president, Jalal Talabani, who is opposed to capital punishment, refused to sign the death warrants himself.
The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Baghdad says a clear issue is whether any executions now would set a precedent for the trials of leaders of the former regime, including Saddam Hussein.
The flashpoint town of Falluja has seen fresh violence
British officials say they will continue to lobby for the abolition of the death penalty in Iraq.
In continuing unrest in Iraq, at least three Iraqi soldiers were killed in the former insurgents' stronghold of Falluja on Saturday.
They died when a grenade was thrown at a patrol, a police captain said.
Six other members of the security forces died in unrest near the northern town of Shorgat and in al-Amiriyah on the edge of Baghdad, said officials quoted by the AFP news agency.