Extremists in Iraq have failed in their attempts to provoke a civil war, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said.
Mr Straw said the situation in Iraq was serious and frustrating
Speaking on BBC One's Sunday AM show, Mr Straw was responding to a warning from Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak that the country is close to civil war.
Mr Straw conceded there was currently a "high level of slaughter" in Iraq.
Suicide bombings at a Baghdad mosque on Friday left 90 dead, while six died in a bomb attack on the mainly-Shia town of Musayyib the following day.
The UK and US have repeatedly denied Iraq is facing a civil war, but last month the country's former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi suggested there was no other way to describe the sectarian violence.
Political leaders of Iraq's dominant Shia alliance are meeting to discuss the deadlock over forming a government of national unity, which comes on the third anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
Mr Straw told Sunday AM: "What's happening is that [Jordanian al-Qaeda militant] al-Zarqawi and other terrorists associated with al-Qaeda and some of the Baathist extremists are trying to provoke a civil war.
"So far, despite huge slaughter, they have not succeeded - above all because of the restraint exercised within the Shia community by the Ayatollah Sistani and by other leaders," he said.
Mr Straw added that leaders in Iraq took a different view to that of Mr Mubarak and Mr Allawi.
The minister said he also disagreed with Mr Mubarak's comments claiming Shia, across the Arab world, had a greater loyalty to Iran than to their own countries.
"I have spoken to many Shia leaders in Iraq and indeed elsewhere. So far as Iraq is concerned these people are Shia...but they are Iraqis first."
He said the situation in Iraq was "very serious" and "very frustrating" because the leaders were taking too long to form the government.
"I don't deny for a second there's terrible carnage. Why I'm hesitant about saying there's civil war is because what's so frustrating about this is that we are on the verge of seeing the beginnings of a democratic and permanent government there."
Mr Straw also commented on reports in US publication the New Yorker that the US is planning, if necessary, to attack facilities in Iran. The article also suggested the possibility of a nuclear strike.
"The idea of a nuclear strike on Iran is completely nuts," said Mr Straw.
He told Andrew Marr, the UK would not accept a pre-emptive attack on Iran, and he was as "certain as he could be" that neither would the US.
The current evidence adds up to "high suspicion" Iran is developing a civil nuclear capability which in turn could be used for nuclear weapons, he said.
But he stressed there was "no smoking gun," and therefore no basis or justification for military action.