Deadline looms as US toll reaches 3,000· All eyes on January 10 date for new course in Iraq· Disillusion with Shia dominated government. Ewen MacAskill and Dan Glaister in Los Angeles Monday January 1, 2007
As George Bush hacked down brushwood and rode his bike at his Crawford ranch this weekend, he gave the impression of a US president little preoccupied by two Iraq milestones that complicate his deliberations on a change of strategy. The first, the hanging of Saddam Hussein, found Mr Bush asleep, and according to advisers he spent only a short time discussing the execution. The second, the reports of the 3,000th US fatality in Iraq, evinced a only general remark. "The most painful aspect of the presidency is the fact that I know my decisions have caused young men and women to lose their lives," Mr Bush said at an end-of-year press conference in Texas. A White House spokesman added simply that the president "will ensure their sacrifice was not made in vain".