U.S. Senator John Warner of the southeastern state of Virginia, a prominent Republican figure in the debate over the war in Iraq, says he will retire after finishing his term in 2009.

Warner told supporters outside of the University of Virginia Friday that he will not seek a sixth term in the 2008 elections.

The former chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee has openly criticized President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq. He called on Mr. Bush earlier this month to begin withdrawing some U.S. troops from Iraq.

His retirement will leave open what would have been a relatively safe seat for Republicans in the fight for Senate control in the elections. Democrats will now have a better chance to protect or expand their one-seat majority in the Senate.

When he leaves office, the 80-year-old former Navy secretary will have served 30 years as a U.S. senator.

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