BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki claimed in remarks released Wednesday that he had escaped several assassination attempts, including one where insurgents tried to shoot down his plane.
"There have been several attempts," Maliki told London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, according to a transcript of the interview released by his office.
One of the alleged attempts "was targeting a plane I was flying in while returning from Mosul (northern Iraq) to Baghdad in 2009, but it failed," he said.
"A missile was fired against the plane, but thermal decoys diverted it," he added.
"There have been several attempts like this but they have all failed," Maliki said.
He also warned of a return to sectarian violence as Iraq languishes without a new government, more than two months after elections in which no group has yet assembled a parliamentary majority.
"If we build the state in the wrong way, which does not meet the conditions for a (democratic) political process and sharing (of power) in the administration, a return to violence is possible," he said.
He added: "If we retreat, terrorist organizations, militias and gangs will all have chances to regroup."
The premier also voiced confidence in the schedule of withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, due to be completed by the end of 2010. All American combat troops are set to leave Iraq by the end of August.
Asked if he had any doubts over the withdrawal, Maliki replied: "Absolutely not. Iraq has developed its military and intelligence capacities, and has built up a great deal of experience."