World leaders have declared their support for elections in Iraq at the end of an international conference on the future of the country.

The interim Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said the elections would be held on 30 January whatever the situation.

Speaking at the meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said elections were critical to ending the violence.

Meanwhile, US-led forces have been launching fresh attacks throughout the day aimed at clearing what they described as insurgent hotbeds south of Baghdad.

Military officials said about 5,000 troops were involved in the operation and that about 30 insurgents had been rounded up, including what they called several high-interest individuals. 

Homemade bomb on airliner

Earlier, the US Embassy in Baghdad said a homemade bomb was found on a commercial airliner in Iraq.

A spokeswoman said the improvised device was found yesterday. She declined to give further details but said security arrangements were tightened at Baghdad International Airport.

It was not clear whether the bomb targeted a passenger or cargo flight, but the embassy renewed a warning to US citizens to reconsider plans to travel by commercial airline to Baghdad.

Baghdad Airport was virtually closed by UN sanctions after the Gulf War. Transformed into a US military base on the fall of Saddam Hussein, it has yet to see a resumption of normal traffic, partly due to attacks on aircraft in flight.

It was closed to civilians for a week until 15 November during a US offensive against guerrillas in the nearby city of Fallujah.