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Lawmakers, President Near Deal on US Auto Industry

U.S. lawmakers and the president are close to a deal to prevent the possible collapse of the country's ailing auto industry.

Senior congressional aides say the deal would give the so-called "Big Three" automakers -- General Motors, Ford and Chrysler -- $15 billion to $17 billion in loans.

They say the money would be enough to keep the companies operating for at least the next few months, and that it would come from an existing, multi-billion-dollar program aimed at helping the automakers produce more fuel-efficient cars.

The aides say details of the plan, which will include significant oversight, still have to be worked out. But lawmakers say they expect to vote on the plan next week.

Unemployment Numbers Worse Than Expected

Plans to rescue the auto industry took on added significance Friday after the U.S. government reported the country lost 533,000 jobs in November -- the steepest monthly employment decline in 34 years.

U.S. President George Bush said Friday he is concerned about the flood of lost jobs, but said his administration is working to deal with the root causes of the problem -- the housing market collapse and tight credit.

Officials say the Bush administration and the Treasury Department may also move ahead with more initiatives to bolster the economy, and that they may ask Congress to release the second half of the $700 billion financial rescue package. Almost $350 million has already been spent.

Earlier Friday, executives from automakers Ford, Chrysler and General Motors appeared before the House Financial Services Committee, seeking up to $34 billion in government aid. The companies, and the autoworkers union, have warned that without a government loan, millions of jobs could be lost.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.