Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he wishes he could quit his job.

In an interview with the U.S. newspaper The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Maliki said he would like to leave office before his four-year term is up. He said he will not seek a second term.

He said he only agreed to be prime minister because he thought it would serve the national interest. He said his job has been difficult because of disagreements within his national unity government of Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds.

Mr. Maliki became prime minister last year after Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was forced out of the running.

Mr. Maliki has been criticized for not dealing with the surge in sectarian violence. Critics claim he has allowed Shi'ite death squads to operate with impunity.

Mr. Maliki's comments come after a White House memo, leaked late last year, questioned his ability to govern.

They also come as President Bush works on a new strategy to stabilize Iraq.

A bipartisan group of experts, The Iraq Study Group, has said the Bush administration should reconsider support for Mr. Maliki's government if it fails to curb the violence.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.