Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States says the partition of Iraq would lead to ethnic cleansing and sectarian killing on a massive scale. Prince Turki al-Faisal made the remarks during a speech in Washington.

Prince Turki told a conference on Washington's relations with the Arab world that dividing Iraq into three regions, reflecting its Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish populations, would be a disaster.

"To envision that you can divide Iraq into three parts is to envision ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, sectarian killing on a massive scale and uprooting of families and even the divorce rate in Iraq will shoot up 300 percent," he said.

Prince Turki's remarks came the week before U.S. Congressional elections. Public opinion polls say the Iraq war is a top priority among voters.

Some leading Democrats, including Senator Joseph Biden, are supporting a plan to divide Iraq into three separate regions - Kurdish, Shi'ite and Sunni - with a central government in Baghdad. The White House has called the proposal a plan for partition, and has rejected it, saying it is an idea the Iraqi people do not support.

Prince Turki says the current bloodshed in Iraq is because the government is not providing security.

"What we see today is an expression of the, first of all, the lack of authority of the government, which encourages people to turn to their basic sectarian and ethnic divides for self-protection," he said. "Hence the rise in militias, some of them for political reasons, others for material gain or even for simply criminal activity, undertake the killings and dislodgings that have been practiced in the last two years in Iraq."

The Saudi ambassador says his country is strongly supporting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and is urging him to extend his government's power throughout the country.

"Our hopes and our engagement with the Maliki government is to encourage them to extend their authority over all of Iraq and provide the daily requirements of stability and security that any society deserves anywhere in the world today," he said. "By doing that you can go a long way in meeting the challenges of the insurgency that is taking place in Iraq."

Prince Turki also called on the Bush administration to pressure Israel into peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

He says the "United States is the only country that can do the right thing for everybody in the Middle East."