BAGHDAD — Iraq’s political leaders gave the government the green light Tuesday to begin negotiating a deal with the U.S. to keep American troops in the country past the end of the year to train Iraqi security forces.

But Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said a final agreement is still far from settled, and cautioned that Baghdad could still insist the U.S. military leave by the end of 2011 as required under a 2008 security agreement.

“The government still might not do it (allow U.S. troops to stay),” Zebari told The Associated Press after the closed-door discussions.

“This is a politically highly charged issue, and there was division,” he said.

“But this meeting unified all the political leaders to back the government and start the negotiations.”