UN General Secretary Kofi Annan pleaded for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at an assembly of world leaders at the UN today.

The Middle East conflict, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and other regional crises are expected to dominate the debate, which runs until the September 29.

Mr Annan said the solutions to a divided world could be found only through the UN.

It was Mr Annan's last speech to the general assembly. He steps down at the end of December after 10 years in office.

Earlier today, Mr Annan warned that Iraq is in grave danger of descending into civil war.

He warned that if current patterns of alienation and violence persisted, there was a danger that the Iraqi state would break down, possibly in the midst of 'full-scale civil war'.

He called for urgent action from Iraqi leaders and the international community to bring the country back from the brink.

Calling on Iraq's neighbours to help stabilise the country, he said peace in Iraq would ultimately depend on 'domestic resolve and regional cooperation'.

Last week Mr Annan stated that most leaders in the region considered the US-led invasion of Iraq to be a 'disaster'.

British soldier on trial

A British soldier pleaded guilty today to committing a war crime by inhumanely treating detainees while serving in Iraq.

Corporal Donald Payne is one of seven British soldiers facing court martial over the death in custody three years ago of an Iraqi hotel receptionist in the southern city of Basra.

Five of the seven were serving with the Queens Lancashire Regiment while two others were with the Intelligence Corps at the time of the death of Baha Musa after his arrest by a British patrol six months after 2003 the invasion of Iraq.

The men face an array of charges from manslaughter to negligence.

Continuing violence in Iraq

A round of mortars slammed into residential homes in southern Baghdad today, killing 10 people and wounding 20, an Interior Ministry source said.

The mortars hit a religiously mixed area in Doura, one of several Baghdad districts where US-led forces have conducted security operations to flush out insurgents and ease violence gripping the capital.

Both the Iranian and British embassies came under attack in Basra this morning.

Two rockets struck the outer wall outer wall of the Iranian consulate while a third hit a police vehicle guarding the building.

Several mortar shells were also fired at the large palace complex that houses the British consulate, a British army base, a UN office and several other organisations.