Bush meets with families of soldiers killed in Iraq

U.S. President George W. Bush says he has listened to but disagrees with Iraq war critics who want U.S. troops brought home immediately, saying to pull out now would hurt the country's fledgling democracy and the United States too.

He was likely to deliver that message again Wednesday in a speech in the suburb of Nampa to military personnel and families of some of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also was to meet privately with the relatives before returning to his Texas ranch in the evening.

Bush left Texas this week to build support for the mission in the face of a growing opposition led by Cindy Sheehan, a California woman who first met the president after her son's death in Iraq last year and is now pressing for a follow-up meeting, according to the AP.

Addressing reporters Tuesday at a resort in Donnelly in the mountains north of Boise, Bush talked about Sheehan, who had kept a vigil outside his ranch.

As Pravda.ru reported earlier, Bush said some words about Cindy Sheehan’ vigil.

"She expressed her opinion. I disagree with it," he said. "I think immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake" and a "policy that would weaken the United States."

Bush said he appreciates Sheehan's right to protest and that he understands her anguish because he has met with a lot of grieving families of the war dead.

But he said, "She doesn't represent the view of a lot of the families I have met with."

Bush said U.S. troops in Iraq are keeping the country safe by taking the fight to the terrorists and that Iraqi progress toward establishing democracy would help too.

He urged patience as the Iraqi government tries to complete a constitution, saying to do so takes a lot of effort and the willingness of people to work for the common good.

After the president spoke, more than 100 anti-war protesters gathered at a park across from the Idaho Statehouse to read the names of the more than 1,800 U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq and to erect hundreds of tiny crosses in their memory.

After speaking to reporters Tuesday, Bush went for a spin on his mountain bike and took the first lady out on a wind-whipped lake in a pontoon boat stocked with fishing gear. During the day, two planes separately wandered into restricted airspace over the resort put in place to protect the president, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. Both planes were forced to land, and the pilots were questioned and released, he said.

Bush also had dinner plans with Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and the state's congressional delegation.

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