Cindy Sheehan, 48, has set up camp some five miles from Mr Bush's Prairie Chapel ranch, demanding that the President meet her. By last night some 100 people had travelled to join her, pitching tents by the roadside and placing small white crosses in the grass to remember American soldiers who have died in the war.
Ms Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son Casey was killed in Iraq last year, has vowed to stay the duration of Mr Bush's holiday, but the President gave no indication yesterday that he would meet her request.
"I understand the anguish," Mr Bush said after a session with his security advisers at the ranch. "I've also heard the voices of those saying, 'Pull out now,' and their sincere desire to reduce the loss of life." But, he declared, "I just strongly disagree." Immediate withdrawal would send "a terrible signal to the enemy."
Last week two senior officials met Ms Sheehan - for 20 minutes according to her, for 45 minutes according to the White House. Ms Sheehan described that encounter as "pointless", insisting that nothing less than a meeting with the President would be enough.
Another US Marine was killed in Iraq yesterday, raising the total American death toll to 1,845.
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