BAGHDAD, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told The Wall Street Journal all U.S. troops must leave his country by the end of 2011.
In a 2-hour interview published Tuesday, his first after a new government was formed following nine months of political stalemate, Maliki said Iraq would assume the responsibility for security and will not form closer ties with Iran.
The Journal said some U.S. and Iraqi officials believed the U.S. troop presence would be extended beyond 2011, but Maliki said that was not true. "The last American soldier will leave Iraq" as agreed with the Obama administration, he said. "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed."
Maliki said the only way for any of the remaining 50,000 U.S. soldiers to stay beyond 2011 would be for the two nations to negotiate a new Status of Forces Agreement similar to the one concluded in 2008.