Page last updated at 01:48 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 02:48 UK

Bush approves soldier's execution

Ronald Gray (1988 picture)
Ronald Gray was convicted of murder and rape in 1988

US President George W Bush has approved the US Army's request to execute a soldier convicted of several charges of rape and murder.

It is the first time in more than 50 years that an American president has authorised a death sentence for a member of the armed forces.

Private Ronald Gray was convicted in 1988 over crimes committed while he was based with the army in North Carolina.

US military justice requires the president to approve a death sentence.

"While approving a sentence of death for a member of our armed services is a serious and difficult decision for a commander in chief, the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the sentence is just and warranted," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said a statement.

Correspondents say President Bush's decision is unlikely to end the legal battle, with Mr Gray's lawyers expected to appeal.

President Dwight Eisenhower was the last US president to approve a military execution, in 1957.

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