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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 January 2007, 16:32 GMT
Bush appeals for Congress unity
US President George W Bush and his cabinet
Mr Bush was flanked by his cabinet as he gave the speech
US President George W Bush has urged his Democratic rivals to work with the White House, a day before the opening of a new session of Congress.

Speaking at the White House, Mr Bush called on Democrats "to set aside politics and look to the future".

Mr Bush said he aimed to rebalance the US federal budget while improving key public services and remaining committed to fighting the threat of terrorism.

Democrats won control of Congress from Republicans in elections last November.

The victory was widely seen as a rebuke against the president's policies on Iraq.

Social focus

Mr Bush's words echoed an opinion piece published under the president's name in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal newspaper.

Calling for congressional unity, Mr Bush said the next two years could be "fruitful" for the US.

However, he wrote: "If the Congress chooses to pass bills that are simply political statements, they will have chosen stalemate."

Congress has changed. Our obligations to the country haven't changed
US President George W Bush
"Together we have important things to do," Mr Bush said in the White House Rose Garden, flanked by his cabinet.

"I am hopeful that Republicans and Democrats can find common ground to serve folk, to do our jobs.

"Congress has changed. Our obligations to the country haven't changed."

Mr Bush said the budget he planned to submit to Congress at the start of its session would balance the US federal budget by 2012.

He said social security and health service provisions needed reworking for "future generations of Americans".

The White House has previously attempted to reform social security, but saw its plans rebuffed.

Unanswered question

Mr Bush is expected to announce policy changes on Iraq in the coming weeks, but made no mention of foreign affairs in his speech.

The BBC's Adam Brookes, in Washington, says the detail of the speech was closely focused on domestic issues, but at heart it was an appeal for the Democrats to work with him, not against him.

The issue of Iraq was the unmentioned "elephant in the room".

The key question is whether Congress will support Mr Bush when he unveils his new Iraq policy in the near future, our correspondent adds.

The new session of Congress, the 110th, will be the first time the Democrats have controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate since the 1993-1995 session.

President Bush makes his appeal for unity

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