Page last updated at 01:32 GMT, Saturday, 8 November 2008

Obama to tackle economy 'head-on'

'America is a strong and resilient country'

US President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to confront the economic crisis "head-on" immediately after taking office in January.

In his first official appearance since his election win, he said a stimulus package to boost the economy was long overdue and would be his top priority.

He pledged to create jobs and help middle class families.

"It's not going to be quick and it's not going to be easy to dig ourselves out of the hole we are in," he said.

"But America is a strong and resilient country and I know that we will succeed if we put aside partisanship and politics to work together."

The news conference at a Chicago hotel was his first since he convincingly beat Republican John McCain in Tuesday's election to become America's first black president.

The 47-year-old Democrat, who takes office on 20 January, was careful not to step on the toes of the outgoing administration of President George W Bush, saying America only had one president at a time.

9 Dec: Deadline for states to resolve issues such as recounts or challenges
15 Dec: Electoral college electors meet in each state to formally cast their votes
6 Jan: Joint session of Congress to count electoral college votes
Before being sworn in on 20 Jan: Barack Obama and Joe Biden must resign from the Senate
20 Jan: Inauguration day

He promised to initiate a rescue plan to provide tax relief for those struggling to pay their bills. He said an economic stimulus package needed to be passed before or immediately after his inauguration.

The president-elect also said he would extend unemployment benefits and help local governments so they did not have to lay off staff.

It was a high priority, he said, to work on policies to help the stricken US car industry adjust to the economic crisis.

He made no new personnel announcements but noted calls for him to pick a treasury secretary quickly.

Mr Obama stressed it was important to make the right appointment, saying: "I want to move with all deliberate haste but I want to emphasise deliberate as well as haste."

He referred to Friday's US labour department figures, which revealed the economy had shed 240,000 jobs in October, bringing job losses so far this year to 1.2 million. The US was facing the greatest economic crisis in memory, he said.

Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, I believe is unacceptable
Barack Obama

Mr Obama was asked about a letter of congratulations on his election victory from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It is the first time Iran has offered such wishes to an American president-elect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Mr Obama said he would review Mr Ahmadinejad's letter and "respond appropriately".

"Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, I believe is unacceptable," the president-elect added. "Iran's support of terrorist organisations, I think is something that has to cease."

But he also said the US approach to Iran could not be done in a "knee-jerk" fashion.

'A mutt like me'

There was laughter when Mr Obama said his election night promise to find his daughters a dog for the family's move to the White House was "a major issue".

Barack Obama and Joe Biden at news conference
Mr Obama was flanked by the vice president-elect and economic advisers

He did not mention any specific breed, but said the family's preference was to adopt a dog from a shelter, "a mutt - like me", he added. Mr Obama said they had to find a pet that would not trigger an allergy of his eldest, Malia.

He also added that his wife Michelle was looking at schools in Washington DC for their two children for when the family moved to the capital from Chicago next year.

There was laughter when he asked a journalist asking a question why she had her arm in a sling, and she explained she had injured herself while running to his election victory speech.

Earlier, Mr Obama and Mr Biden met economic advisers including Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and his predecessor, Robert Rubin, as well as Paul Volcker, who was chairman of the Federal Reserve under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and billionaire investor Warren Buffett joined the talks.

I think he did not answer the important questions with a straight answer
Belinda, California, USA

For treasury secretary, Mr Obama is said to be considering Mr Summers, Mr Volcker, and Timothy Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

The president-elect was joined at Friday's news conference by his new chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel, who was once an adviser to President Bill Clinton.

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod is expected to become senior White House adviser - a post previously held by Karl Rove under President Bush.

Another aide, Robert Gibbs, is expected to become White House press secretary.

Mr Obama is due to discuss the economy with President Bush at the White House on Monday. He will not, however, attend the G20 economic summit to be held in Washington next weekend, senior officials have said.

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