Rival Sunni and Shia politicians agreed to a peace plan for Iraq during a secret four-day meeting that ended Sunday in Finland, participants have confirmed.
The 12-point plan includesstrategies for disarming feuding factions, ending the displacement of Iraqi refugees and ultimately taking over security duties from foreign troops, participants said.
The participants agreed to deal with violent militias by arming and training security forces into an effective national force.
One participant, who asked not to be named, called the plan a "road map" to peace.
Among the 16 Iraqi delegates at the meeting in Helsinki were representatives of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, as well as Adnan al-Dulaimi, the leader of the largest Sunni political group, and Humam Hammoudi, the Shia chairman of Iraq's foreign affairs committee.
Delegates from other countries also participated in the talks.
"What made these talks unique was the presence of players from Northern Ireland and South Africa," the CBC's Harry Forestell reported from London. "They were there to offer their advice based on their own experiences with peacemaking."
The group agreed to hold further talks aimed at resolving Iraq's political problems through democratic and non-violent means.
Iraq has been plagued by increasing sectarian violence since the United States invaded in 2003.
The Sunnis, who represent about 20 per cent of the Iraqi population, ran the country underformer president Saddam Hussein, but after he was deposed, the Shias became the dominant group.
They represent about 60 per cent of the population.