By DEB RIECHMANN
Last updated: Thursday, Aug 11, 2005 - 11:05:21 am PDT
CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush said Thursday he understands and respects the views of anti-war advocates like a California mother camped outside his Texas ranch to mourn her soldier son fallen in Iraq, but said it would be a mistake to bring U.S. troops home now.
"I understand the anguish that some feel about the death that takes place," Bush said.
"I also have heard the voices of those saying: Pull out now," he said. "And I've thought about their cry and their sincere desire to reduce the loss of life by pulling our troops out. I just strongly disagree."
Immediate withdrawal "would send a terrible signal to the enemy."
Cindy Sheehan has been camped along a road near Bush's ranch since Saturday, asking to talk to Bush about her son Casey and vowing to remain until his Texas vacation ends later this month. Casey was killed five days after he arrived in Iraq last year. He was 24.
"I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan," Bush said. "She feels strongly about her position, and she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position, and I thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is: Get out of Iraq now. And it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so."
By Thursday, about 50 people had joined Sheehan's cause, pitching tents in muddy, shallow ditches and hanging anti-war banners; two dozen others have sent flowers. Her name was among the most popular search topics Wednesday on Internet blogs.
Bush spoke to reporters on a day when he played host to his administration's top national security, foreign policy and defense advisers at a time of increasing violence in Iraq and new nuclear worries involving Iran and North Korea.
Bush also indicated that the new Iranian president will receive a U.S. visa to attend an annual United Nations gathering next month and welcomed the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency's warning to Tehran about consequences of its nuclear ambitions.
Bush said U.S. investigators still have not yet determined what role Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have played in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Even so, Bush said, the United States has separate obligations to other countries as the host nation for the United Nations, which is headquartered in New York.
A service of the Associated Press(AP)