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Obama Says Economy, Security Are Top Priorities

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama says he intends to do whatever it takes to stabilize the U.S. economy, restore consumer confidence and create jobs. VOA's Purnell Murdock reports from Washington Mr. Obama spoke during his first major post-election interview.

Speaking Sunday night on the CBS news program, 60 Minutes, President-elect Barack Obama laid out what are the top priorities his new administration will face.

Mr. Obama said he has spent days since the November 4 election planning to stabilize the economy. He credited Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for trying to remedy the financial crisis and refrained from criticizing efforts by the Bush Administration.

"We have got an unprecedented crisis, or at least something that we have not seen since the first depression," Obama said. "And I think Hank [U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson] would be the first to acknowledge that probably not everything that has been done has worked the way he had hoped it would work. But I am less interested in looking backward than I am in looking forwards."

Mr. Obama said fighting back a deepening recession is more important than balancing the country's budget. He also said it is important to restore faith in financial markets to allow the economy to move forward in a strong way.

"We have to do whatever it takes to get this economy moving again," he noted. "We are going to have to spend money now to stimulate the economy. And that we should not worry about the deficit next year or even the year after. That, short term, the most important thing is that we avoid a deepening recession."

Mr. Obama said he intends to focus on homeowners facing foreclosure. The president-elect said the government should set up a system of negotiation between banks and borrowers to help people stay in their homes.

Concerning national security matters, Mr. Obama said he will make the selection of his national security team a top priority because transition periods are times of vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

"We want to make sure that there is as seamless a transition on national security as possible," Obama stressed.

Mr. Obama reaffirmed his campaign pledges to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to work with military commanders to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq. He said he also plans to capture or kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, saying doing so will be a critical aspect of stamping out the terrorist network.

Mr. Obama acknowledged meeting with former Democratic primary rival Senator Hillary Clinton last week. But he refused to say whether she was being considered for secretary of state, as has been widely reported.

Mr. Obama will be sworn into office on January 20.