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Automatic US Budget Cuts to Begin Friday


U.S. lawmakers are at a standstill on avoiding $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that are to hit the federal government on Friday.

President Barack Obama plans to meet with congressional leaders Friday in their first face-to-face talks since his inauguration in January.

The White House says the talks are meant to be a "constructive discussion" on doing something about the automatic cuts.

The sequester cuts are the result of a failure among lawmakers and the White House to arrive at a compromise U.S. government budget.

Observers say the meeting will look past the cuts to the next looming fiscal crisis, a possible government shutdown at the end of March. The annual congressional process of passing agency spending bills collapsed entirely last year, and lawmakers must act by March 27 to prevent a partial government shutdown.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, speaks to the press after meeting with the German and French foreign ministers in separate meetings at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 28, 2015.

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