Iraqis hold first talks on keeping US troops

Iraq's top political factions are discussing whether to ask the U.S. to leave some troops currently in the country beyond the Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline.

Monday's meeting at Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Baghdad residence was attended by the prime minister, as well as senior Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish politicians.

It was the first high-level meeting to discuss the upcoming withdrawal. No details were released.

In a brief statement following the discussions, Talabani said another meeting will be held "soon" to come up with a unified political decision. He didn't set a date.

Last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said American leaders asked Baghdad for an answer before August so they can start withdrawing the 47,000 remaining U.S. troops.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BAGHDAD (AP) — A roadside bomb exploded Monday morning next to a French Embassy convoy traveling through downtown Baghdad, wounding seven Iraqis, officials said.

A police officer said the bomb which was exploded at about 8:30 a.m. lightly damaged one of the three armored SUVs in the capital's commercial Karrada area.

Four Iraqi guards working for a private security company employed by the embassy and three civilian bystanders were wounded, the officer said. The French Foreign Ministry said no one in the convoy was hurt in the explosion.

"Nothing indicates that members of our diplomatic representation were targeted by this attack," ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in an online briefing Monday.

The attack was part of a series attacks launched by militants in the capital during the Monday rush hour.

At about 7 a.m., gunmen in speeding car shot and killed with pistols fitted with silencers a policeman in the southwestern Amil area, another police officer said.

Nearly an hour later, a parked car bomb targeted a passing police patrol in the northeastern Shaab neighborhood, killing one policeman and wounding four others, a police officer said.

And three civilian bystanders were wounded in central Jadriyah when a roadside bomb missed a police patrol, police said.

Three hospital officials confirmed the casualties. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

While violence is well below what it had been during the early years that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, militants are again stepping up deadly attacks. That has led to concerns about what happens when the 47,000 remaining U.S. troops are withdrawn by the end of this year.

Iraqi government and other political factions are debating whether to keep some American forces in the country beyond the Dec. 31 deadline.