Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi is boycotting the meeting, apparently in protest of comments by Jordan's King Abdullah. Abdullah recently suggested Iran may be trying to use the 30 January elections to establish Shi'ite Muslim clerical rule in Iraq.
Iran has instead sent a lower-ranking official to attend the talks, which include foreign ministers from Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
Abdullah said in comments published in Kuwait today that his remarks on Iran's intentions had been misinterpreted. He said that he would never direct any remarks against Shi'ites.
The meeting comes during an escalation in the violence
in Iraq. Yesterday, more than 20 people were reported killed in at least three suicide bombings.Bodies Of Contractors Discovered
Today, Iraqi police said that insurgents have executed 18 Iraqis who had been seeking jobs at a U.S. base in Mosul.
Police said their corpses were discovered yesterday in a field near the northern city of Mosul.
Police sources say the insurgents apparently shot the Iraqis -- aged between 14 and 20 -- on 8 December 2004 after they stopped their two minibuses as they were traveling to Mosul from Baghdad.
Police say the hands of the victims were tied behind their backs and each of them was shot in the head. Police say all were Shi'ite Muslims from Baghdad's northern neighborhood of Kadhimiya who were hired by an Iraqi contractor to work at the U.S. base.
Violence has increased dramatically in recent weeks in Mosul, a predominantly Sunni Arab city.
Is Insurgent Violence Having Desired Effect On Iraqi Elections?
For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".