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Emotional Bush says US must finish military campaign in Iraq

Tue May 30, 11:11 AM ET

President George W. Bush again vowed to complete US military missions in Iraq and around the world as the United States honoured its war dead with the military toll in Iraq closing on 2,500 and a report of more reinforcements for the west of the country.

Tears welled in the US president's eyes as he gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, just a few days after admitting that he had some regrets about the Iraq conflict and that it had caused "consternation" in America.

"I'm in awe of the men and women who sacrifice for the freedom of the United States of America," Bush said to loud applause from an audience that included Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and US military chiefs.

Family members of US troops killed in Iraq were also among the audience as Bush spoke.

"Our nation mourns the loss of our men and women in uniform. We will honour them by completing the mission for which they gave their lives, by defeating the terrorists, by advancing the cause of liberty and by laying the foundation of peace for a generation of young Americans," Bush said.

The Washington Post Tuesday reprted that a 3,500-strong armored brigade stationed in Kuwait will be sent to western Iraq's Anbar province to reinforce US troops dealing with a surge of violence from Al-Qaeda.

The top US commander in Iraq, General George Casey, has called up the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division -- the main US reserve force for US troops in Iraq -- in response to appeals for reinforcements from US Marines and local Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar, Marine spokesman Todd Breasseale told the daily in Baghdad.

The reinforcements come amid increased clashes between insurgents and US forces, especially in the Anbar capital of Ramadi, and fear among Sunni tribal leaders of reprisals for cooperating with the US military in resisting the pressure of Al-Qaeda insurgent groups, which have been targeting local leaders.

An unnamed Sunni sheik told the newspaper that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was "stronger than the Americans ... Zarqawi is the one who is in control."

"He kills anyone who goes in and out of the US base. We have stopped meetings with the Americans, because, frankly speaking, we have lost confidence in the US side, as they can't protect us."

The call-up of the 3,500-member armored division leaves in Kuwait a Marine Expeditionary Unit as the only US reserve in the Iraqi theater, a US Central Command spokesman told The Washington Post.

"Enough is never enough" said Breasseale referring to US commanders wanting reinforcements.

The US death toll in Iraq is now about 2,470 and has increased by more than 800 since the president's last Memorial Day wreath-laying at Arlington Cemetery, in the Washington suburbs. Almost 300 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

And Iraq looked set to dominate the news bulletins here late Monday as the CBS network said two members of a CBS news team had been killed in Baghdad and that a well-known correspondent, Kimberly Dozier, was seriously injured.

The CBS team, who were with a US military patrol, were in a convoy struck by an improvised explosive device.

Bush spoke at Arlington on Memorial Day which sees military veterans visit the city to pay their respects to soldiers lost in conflict.

There are the remains of about 296,000 US soldiers, mainly from the two World Wars and the Vietnam and Korean conflicts, at Arlington.

"In this place where valor sleeps, we are reminded why America has always gone to war reluctantly, because we know the costs of war," said Bush.

"We have seen those costs in the war on terror we fight today. These grounds are the final resting place for more than 270 men and women who have given their lives in freedom's cause since the attacks of September 11, 2001."

The Iraq war is becoming increasingly unpopular and has become a major drag on the president's approval ratings which now hover around 30 percent.

Polls indicate an overwhelming majority of Americans now believe the Iraq war was a mistake.

On Saturday, Bush compared the "war against terror" to the Cold War struggle against communism.

But last week, after a summit with war ally Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, Bush spoke of "setbacks and missteps" in the Iraq campaign.

The US leader said that the Abu Ghraib prison scandal had been the biggest mistake in Iraq and that he regretted some of his rhetoric in the war on terror, such as his "Bring 'em on" taunt to Iraqi insurgents.

He called it the "kind of tough talk that sent the wrong signal to people."

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