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Obama: Economy to Be Top Priority After Assuming Office


In his first news conference since becoming the first African-American elected to the White House, President-elect Barack Obama is making it clear that his top priority will be addressing the problems in the U.S. economy. His comments come after a meeting Friday with financial advisers and members of his transition team. VOA's Kane Farabaugh has more from Chicago, Illinois.

In polling data gathered during the November 4 election, voters across America overwhelming indicated that their biggest concern is the ailing U.S. economy.

Mr. Obama told reporters at his first news conference he understands their concerns.

"Tens of millions of families are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills and stay in their homes. Their stories are an urgent reminder that we are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime, and we must act swiftly to resolve them," he said.

He reminded reporters that until he assumes the office next January 20, President Bush and his administration are in charge.

"The United States has only one government and one president, and until January 20th of next year, that government is the current administration," he said. "I have spoken to President Bush, and I appreciate his commitment to ensuring that his economic policy team keeps us fully informed as developments unfold."

Mr. Obama said he understands that every American is worried about the current economic conditions, but he warns that nothing can be resolved quickly.

"Immediately after I become president, I will confront this economic crisis head-on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity," he said.

The president-elect has kept a relatively low profile since winning the election Tuesday, and there is intense interest on who Mr. Obama will pick to fill top spots in his cabinet.

A fellow Chicago politician, U.S. Congressman Rahm Emanuel, was chosen to be the White House chief of staff. Emmanuel stood by Mr. Obama's side during the afternoon press conference along with Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and his team of economic advisors.

But Mr. Obama offered little information on who he was considering for other high positions, such as secretary of defense and secretary of state.

"When we have an announcement about cabinet appointments, we will make them," he said. "There is no doubt I think that people want to know about who's going to make up our team. We will move with all deliberate haste, but I want to emphasize 'deliberate' and 'haste."

Even though no one is yet chosen to head the State Department, reporters pressed Mr. Obama on foreign policy issues that his appointee and his administration will face, such as Iran's nuclear developments.

"Iran's development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable, and we have to mount an international effort to stop that from happening," he said. "Iran's support of terrorist organizations is something that has to cease."

Mr. Obama has 74 days left before officially becoming president on Inauguration Day

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