President George W. Bush said on Thursday he sympathized with a mother who lost her son in Iraq and has been leading a protest vigil near his ranch, but that he would not pull out U.S. troops from Iraq now as she has demanded.
"I grieve for every death," Bush said as Cindy Sheehan remained camped out about five miles (8 km) away.
"It breaks my heart to think about a family weeping over the loss of a loved one. I understand the anguish that some feel about the death that takes place," Bush was quoted as saying by Reuters. But, he added, "pulling the troops out would send a terrible signal to the enemy."
"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," he was quoted as saying by BBC.
Mr Bush's remarks came after meeting with security advisors, including Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Ms Sheehan's son Casey was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City in April 2004.
"All I want is for President Bush to take one hour out of his vacation and meet with me before another mother's son dies in Iraq," she said.
"You don't use our country's precious sons and daughters unless it's absolutely necessary to defend America."
However, some veterans and relatives have dubbed the vigil a distraction and are keen to ensure support for those serving in Iraq does not wane.
Ms Sheehan met the president once before when he visited Fort Lewis in Washington state to meet relatives of those killed in the war.
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