Americans to face “difficult choices” concerning Iraq

Acknowledging deepening frustration over Iraq, U.S. President George W. Bush says he is considering increasing forces in the region. He admits that 2007 will see “sacrifices” and “difficult choices” by the American people.

Mr Bush spoke as new U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates made his first visit to Iraq, just three days after taking office. Gates met leading commanders as part of his brief to help formulate a new strategy in Iraq.

The Bush administration is under intense pressure to examine new options for a war that has killed almost 3,000 U.S. troops and cost more than $US 300 BLN.

Increasing military forces would prove a rejection of last month's highly publicised Iraq Study Group Report which called for a gradual withdrawal of soldiers.

Mr Gates’ trip comes as the U.S. Military have confirmed plans to charge at least 5 Marines  in connection with the 2005 killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in the northern town of Haditha.

It has been almost a year since the Haditha tragedy first surfaced and U.S. Congressman John Murtha accused U.S. Marines from the 3rd Battalion of killing “in cold blood” 24 civilians, including women and children, in Haditha, a small farming town in Western Iraq.