Simon Cowell claims his comments about possibly leaving American Idol once his current contract expires after the next year's ninth season isn't just a negotiating ploy for his next contract.

"It's not negotiating," Cowell told The New York Times in an interview published Monday.  "I have as good a relationship with the people from Fox as you possibly can have. They've become friends. I don't bull them... I don't want to get bored, and I don't want the audience to get bored."

Earlier this month, Cowell openly speculated he might leave his Idol judging role after the November 2005  five-season agreement he signed with Fox expires due to his other obligations to his The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent U.K. reality competitions.

"Most people do one show a year and I do three. It just so happens that one is in America and two are in England and they do involve a lot of traveling.  One may have to go. I don't know how to decide which one. That is the problem, I like all of them," he had told the U.K.'s The Daily Mirror newspaper.

"I can't imagine not doing Britain's Got Talent and I can't imagine not doing X Factor. But I guess America is more likely to go because I have got one year under contract. Maybe that will be the end."

Cowell quickly clarified his remarks after they gained quite a bit of media attention, telling The Los Angeles Times that "the only certainty is that I'm still on Idol, still love doing it and still have a year under contract. So, while I'm looking at all options for the future, I haven't made any decisions."

Cowell reiterated that stance and said he has yet to make a decision.

"When I signed the latest extension on Idol through next season, it felt like that was going to be the right amount of time," he told The New York Times.  "It still feels right."

Also included in the 2005 extension Cowell inked with Fox was an agreement that he wouldn't sell the rights to an American adaptation of The X Factor, which effectively replaced Pop Idol, the British series American Idol was based on, when Cowell left Pop Idol to start The X Factor after Pop Idol's second season.

The X Factor's U.K. launch later sparked a lawsuit in which Idol creator Simon Fuller and his 19 Entertainment company sued Cowell and Fremantle Media -- 19's Idol production partner who was also co-produces The X Factor with Cowell's own production company -- over the show's similiarities to the Idol concept.

The lawsuit's settlement -- which featured Fuller and 19 receiving a minority interest in The X-Factor -- was reportedly also part of the conditions of Cowell's 2005 Idol extension agreement.

However Cowell told The New York Times that once his Fox contract expires he would be free to sell the rights to The X Factor stateside and even appear on-screen for the series -- which is something he currently can't do with any of his other American projects, including NBC's America's Got Talent, due to his Fox contract. (Unlike in America, Cowell serves as a judge on both The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, which both air on the ITV network).
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While he's still unsure about whether or not he'll continue on Idol, Cowell reiterated he thinks it could continue without him.

"I think the show could go on for another 5 or 10 years," he told The New York Times.  "It would just be a different type show."