Bush warns of further sacrifices in Iraq

 

Thousands of Iraq war supporters and protesters held competing rallies outside President George W Bush's Texas ranch as he warned Americans to brace for additional sacrifice in Iraq.

With almost 1,900 US troops killed in the Iraq war, Mr Bush's job approval rating has plummeted to new lows. He is under increasing pressure from critics to finish training a new Iraqi security force and bring the soldiers home.

But in his weekly radio address, Mr Bush acknowledged there was more work ahead for American soldiers in Iraq.

"Our efforts in Iraq and the broader Middle East will require more time, more sacrifice and continued resolve," said Mr Bush, who has spent most of August on vacation at his ranch.

Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq last year and has camped outside Mr Bush's ranch seeking a second meeting with him to press for the withdrawal of troops, said her efforts would ultimately lead to the end of the war in Iraq.

"I know that the Camp Casey movement is going to end the war in Iraq," she said after folk singer Joan Baez led supporters in singing "Amazing Grace."

Rally organizers estimated the crowd in the sweltering heat was more than 2,000, although it appeared smaller. "How many more (soldiers) are you willing to sacrifice before you say enough is enough? How many more are we willing to sacrifice for lies and deception and bullcrap?" Ms Sheehan asked, followed by chants of "Not one more!"

She plans to briefly join a three-week bus tour starting late next week to press her message with lawmakers.

Mr Bush has said withdrawing the troops now would embolden insurgents who have sought to derail the drafting of a constitution with attacks on US and Iraqi security forces.

"As Iraqis stand up, Americans will stand down," Mr Bush said. "And when Iraqi forces can defend their freedom by taking more and more of the fight to the enemy, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned."

Mr Bush called a key Shia leader this week to press for a deal to finish Iraq's constitution, a goal seen as a step toward a more-stable Iraq that would allow US soldiers to eventually withdraw. Negotiations on a constitution have been deadlocked for weeks but are continuing.

"What is important is that Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion - not at the barrel of a gun," Mr Bush said.

His message was part of renewed push to counter critics of his Iraq war policy. But the latest Gallup poll showed that just two in five Americans approved of the job he was doing while 56 per cent disapproved of his performance.