Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki held out hope Monday that his country's political leaders will decide within a day whether to ask U.S. troops to stay in Iraq beyond 2011.
The heads of Iraq's various political blocs are scheduled to meet Tuesday. In a statement from his office, al-Maliki said he hoped a "final decision" could be reached during that session.
The statement followed a meeting between the Iraqi leader and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who arrived in Baghdad on Monday after visits to Afghanistan and to the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
About 44,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq through the end of the year, down from about 170,000 at the peak of the war that followed the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
The remaining American contingent is scheduled to withdraw by the end of the year -- and attacks on that force have gone up as Iraqi leaders debate whether to postpone that deadline. Stuart Bowen, the U.S. official overseeing reconstruction efforts, reported Sunday that the country remains "extraordinarily dangerous" and is less safe than it was a year ago.
U.S. commanders, including Mullen, have blamed Shiite Muslim militias backed by neighboring Iran for the increased attacks on American troops, 21 of whom have been killed in the past three months. And anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose followers once fought pitched battles with U.S. and Iraqi government troops, has threatened to return to "armed resistance" against if U.S. forces remain.
On Sunday, dozens of tribal leaders loyal to al-Sadr set up tents in eastern Baghdad and vowed to battle the "occupiers" if American troops are allowed to remain.
Al-Sadr's followers now hold 39 seats in Iraq's parliament. His movement emerged as one of the kingmakers in Iraqi politics during the long deadlock that followed the 2010 elections and played a major role in clinching a second term for al-Maliki.
In addition, attacks across the country killed 259 people in July and left 453 others wounded, according to figures released by Iraq's interior ministry on Monday. The figures also showed 22 "terrorists" were killed and 115 others were arrested.
Those figures are the second-highest monthly toll in the country this year, slightly behind June's 271 deaths. But they are well below the 535 deaths recorded in July 2010 -- and far below the bloodshed seen at the worst of Iraq's sectarian warfare in 2005 and 2007, when monthly body counts routinely topped 2,000.
CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.