Iraq's prime minister says the withdrawal of U.S. troops from urban areas by the end of this month will be a "big victory" for the nation.

Nouri al-Maliki says militants will try to stage more attacks but Iraqi security forces won't let them reverse security gains.

A U.S.-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 U.S. help if violence surges.

But al-Maliki says any extension would show a lack of confidence and be a "historic setback."

He says "we will not retreat no matter what happens."

Al-Maliki spoke Saturday to members of the Turkomen ethnic minority.