Iraq calls US pullback from cities 'big victory'

Iraq's prime minister said Saturday the withdrawal of US troops from urban areas by the end of this month would be a "big victory" for the nation. Nouri al-Maliki said militants would try to stage more attacks but Iraqi security forces would not let them reverse security gains. A US-Iraqi security pact requires the Americans to pull back combat troops from cities by June 30 as a first step toward a full withdrawal by 2012. The deal includes a provision for the Iraqi government to ask for US help if violence surges. But al-Maliki said any extension would show a lack of confidence and be a "historic setback." He said "we will not retreat no matter what happens." Al-Maliki was speaking to members of the Turkomen ethnic minority.