United States President George W Bush vowed to press ahead with plans to send an extra 21,500 troops into Iraq despite strong opposition in Congress and a war-weary American public.
Asked by CBS television if he had the authority to go ahead without congressional backing, Bush said: "I think in this situation I do and I fully understand (Congress) could try to stop me from doing it ... But I made my decision. We're going forward."
CBS released the extract of Bush's interview with the "60 Minutes" programme on its website yesterday, as polls showed that as many as two in three Americans oppose the plan.
Bush has faced a barrage of criticism since he unveiled his new strategy on Wednesday to end the violence that has killed more than 3,000 US troops in Iraq.
The president sent out his top aides to sell the Iraq strategy at home and abroad, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heading to the Middle East to drum up support from Arab governments while Defence Secretary Robert Gates faced sceptical lawmakers in Congress.
Gates and General Peter Pace, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the plan before the Senate Armed Services Committee one day after facing a tough grilling by its House of Representatives equivalent.
"If we talk about the consequences of the American failure and defeat in Iraq, then saying, 'If you don't do this, we'll leave, and we'll leave now,' does not strike me as being in the national interests of the United States," he said.