BAGHDAD — An American Chinook helicopter crashed early today as it was landing in southern Iraq, killing seven U.S. soldiers, the military said.
The CH-47 Chinook was landing about 60 miles west of Basra at the time of the crash, the U.S. statement said. A spokesman said hostile fire was not suspected, and the incident was under investigation.
The chopper was a part of an aerial convoy flying from Kuwait to the U.S. military base at Balad just north of Baghdad. The Chinook is designed to transport troops and supplies to combat and other regions.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, issued one of his toughest statements yet about Iraqi-U.S. negotiations over the future of U.S. troops in Iraq. The deadline for reaching an agreement is Dec. 31, when the U.N. mandate governing U.S. forces in Iraq expires.
Maliki, speaking to satellite TV executives Wednesday, said an agreement was not imminent and that the U.N. Security Council would have to extend its mandate if an accord is not reached.
He warned that an extension was not guaranteed, given Russia's sour relations with the United States.
This would leave "the Americans in a critical stage without a legal cover" to be in Iraq, Maliki said. "We hope there will be flexibility from the American side, because the Iraqi side demonstrated flexibility."
• For the second time in three days, twin bombs tore through a busy Baghdad street Wednesday, killing at least eight people.