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Obama interview - key excerpts

President-elect Barack Obama was interviewed by

Barack Obama (file photo)
Barack Obama is to be inaugurated as president on 20 January
George Stephanopoulos on the US TV network ABC on Sunday 11 January 2009.

Below are some of his key comments from the interview. It included his thoughts on the US economy, as well as the violence in the Middle East, relations with Iran, and the future of the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

ON THE ECONOMIC CRISIS

I think we can fix it. But it's going to take some time. It's not going to happen overnight. And what we tried to do this week was, first of all, explain where we are in the economy. That the jobs numbers this week were terrible. That means we've lost 2.5m last year. That's the most since World War II.

You've got another 3.4m people who have gone from full- time work to part-time work, or want full-time work. So the underemployment rate is extremely high. And, you know, whether it's retail sales, manufacturing, all the indicators show that we are in the worst recession since the Great Depression. And it's going to take some time to fix it.

ON THE FINANCIAL BAILOUT

The bulk of the package is direct government spending. And here are a few things we're going to do. We're going to double alternative energy production. We are going to weatherize two million homes. We are going to create a much more efficient energy system. And that's going to have enormous ramifications for the economy as a whole down the line. I think we can create a new green economy, and that's going to be one of the keys to the 21st Century.

Chrysler plant in Michigan. File pic
The US economy is feeling the downturn

Health care, which is a drain on our economy, both families and businesses, we're going to make investments in information technology, update our systems work, reduce medical error. That's going to save people money.

Education - we want to create a classroom for the 21st Century for every child, as well as community colleges and public universities.

ON THE ISRAELI/PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

I think that's a basic principle of any country is that they've got to protect their citizens. And so, what I've said is that, given the delicacy of the situation, the one area where the principle of one president at a time has to hold is when it comes to foreign policy. We cannot have two administrations at the same time simultaneously sending signals in a volatile situation.

But what I am doing right now is putting together the team so that on 20 January, starting on day one, we have the best possible people who are going to be immediately engaged in the Middle East peace process as a whole, that are going to be engaging with all of the actors there, that will work to create a strategic approach that ensures that both Israelis and Palestinians can meet their aspirations.

When you see civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli, harmed, under hardship, it's heartbreaking. And obviously what that does is it makes me much more determined to try to break a deadlock that has gone on for decades now.

ON MIDDLE EAST POLICY

Well, you know, I think that if you look not just at the Bush administration, but also what happened under the Clinton administration, you are seeing the general outlines of an approach. And I think that players in the region understand the compromises that are going to need to be made. But the politics of it are hard. And the reason it's so important for the United States to be engaged and involved immediately, not waiting until the end of their term, is because working through the politics of this requires a third party that everybody has confidence, wants to see a fair and just outcome.

ON TENSIONS WITH IRAN

I think that Iran is going to be one of our biggest challenges. And as I said during the campaign, you know, we have a situation in which not only is Iran exporting terrorism through Hamas, through Hezbollah, but they are pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Well, I think a new emphasis on respect and a new emphasis on being willing to talk, but also a clarity about what our bottom lines are. And we are in preparations for that. We anticipate that we're going to have to move swiftly in that area.

ON INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES

Vice President Cheney I think continues to defend what he calls extraordinary measures or procedures when it comes to interrogations. And from my view, waterboarding is torture. I have said that under my administration, we will not torture.

During the campaign, although John McCain and I had a lot of differences on a lot of issues, this is one where we didn't have a difference, which is that it is possible for us to keep the American people safe while still adhering to our core values and ideals, and that's what I intend to carry forward in my administration.

ON CLOSING GUANTANAMO BAY

It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize, and we are going to get it done, but part of the challenge that you have is that you have got a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom may be very dangerous, who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication.

Prisoner at Guantanamo Bay
Mr Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo Bay

And some of the evidence against them may be tainted, even though it's true. And so, how to balance creating a process that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo-American legal system, but doing it in a way that doesn't result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.

But I don't want to be ambiguous about this. We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our constitution.

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