President George W Bush has gone to his ranch to rethink US involvement in Iraq as his spokesman hailed a Baghdad court's decision upholding the death sentence for former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Saddam, who was deposed by the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, is to be hanged within 30 days.
"Today marks an important milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law," deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel told reporters aboard Air Force One to Texas yesterday, where Bush was to meet this week with his national security team.
Iraq's highest appeals court on Tuesday upheld the November 5 sentence against Saddam for ordering the killing of 148 Shiites in Dujail in 1982, following an attempt on his life.
Chief Judge Aref Shahin said the sentence must be implemented within 30 days, and could be carried out as early as on Wednesday.
"Saddam Hussein has received due process and legal rights that he denied the Iraqi people for so long, so this is an important day for the Iraqi people," Stanzel said.
Bush, saddled with low approval ratings for his handling of Iraq, will host a National Security Council meeting on Thursday at the ranch, but is not expected to make any final decision on what he says will be a new way forward in Iraq.
Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley will attend the meeting.
Stanzel said there could be other National Security Council meetings before the president makes up his mind and delivers a speech to announce his decisions.
The speech is expected before the State of the Union address on January 23.