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Obama: Urgent Need for Government Economic Help


US OBAMA WRAP: President Barack Obama says the U.S. economy is facing its most profound emergency since the Great Depression and could sink into a "negative spiral" without more government intervention. Speaking at a White House news conference, Mr. Obama called on the U.S. Congress to quickly pass an $800 billion government spending and tax cut bill. The president said a failure to act would deepen the pain of Americans who are suffering from 3.6 million lost jobs and other economic problems. He said with the private sector weakened, "the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt the economy back to life."

US - OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY: President Barack Obama says the United States is looking for opportunities to engage with Iran, saying he hopes to create the conditions in coming months to start face-to-face talks. In his Monday evening news conference, Mr. Obama said Iran's nuclear program threatens to set off a new arms race. He acknowledged that the years of mistrust between Iran and the U.S. will be hard to overcome. President Obama also said he believes it is important for the United States to start reducing its nuclear arsenal in an effective way, so nonproliferation treaties can be strengthened in coming years.

US - DIPLOMACY - SOUTH ASIA: U.S. President Barack Obama's new special envoy to South Asia has met with Pakistan's foreign minister as part of a series of high-level talks in Islamabad. Veteran U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke is scheduled to meet with senior government and military leaders, as well as representatives of Pakistan's civil society and business sectors, before he leaves later this week for India and Afghanistan. Holbrooke met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Tuesday. Officials have not released details of the meeting.

AUSTRALIA WILDFIRES: The head of the Australian state devastated by wildfires says the death toll will exceed 200. Victoria state Premier John Brumby told reporters Tuesday that the coroner has identified 50 bodies that have not been counted in the official death toll, which now stands at 181. Australian firefighters are still battling about a dozen wildfires in the southeastern state. Victoria state authorities have issued a series of alerts, warning that the fires might spread beyond containment lines. Thousands of troops, firefighters and volunteers are working to extinguish the fires in Victoria, and in the neighboring states of New South Wales and South Australia.

CHINA - SAUDI - AFRICA: Chinese President Hu Jintao left Beijing Tuesday morning for state visits to Saudi Arabia and four African countries. Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun told reporters last weekthat President Hu and Saudi King Abdullah will discuss energy cooperation when they meet Tuesday. China is one of the world's biggest oil consumers and Saudi Arabia is its key supplier. Last year, Saudi Arabia exported 36 million tons of crude oil to the Asian economic giant. After a two-day visit to the kingdom, the Chinese president will travel to Mali, Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritius.

TAIWAN CORRUPTION: Taiwan's former first lady Wu Shu-chen has pleaded guilty to forgery and money-laundering. At a pre-trial hearing into her corruption case Tuesday, the wheelchair-bound Wu admitted laundering money abroad, but denied charges of embezzling money from a special presidential fund. Authorities have jailed her husband, Chen Shui-bian on suspicion of embezzlement, money laundering, taking bribes and forgery. He denies the allegations, but has acknowledged that his wife sent $20 million in excess campaign funds to overseas bank accounts. Authorities suspect the funds were illicit.

CHINA - FIRE: Investigators in China say a fire that swept through a luxury hotel under construction in Beijing was caused by fireworks that were not government-approved. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters Tuesday the Lantern Festival fireworks were much more powerful than those sold at roadside stands, and the owners of the property ignored a police warning that such fireworks were illegal. A firefighter was killed battling the blaze at the still unopened hotel. The firefighter died Tuesday morning. Six other firefighters and one construction worker were treated for injuries.

ISRAEL ELECTIONS: Israelis are voting in parliamentary elections that will determine the successor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. More than five million people are eligible to vote Tuesday in about 9,000 locations across the nation. Polls will close at 10:00 p.m. local time. Opinion polls showed a narrowing gap between former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's ruling centrist Kadima Party. The far-right Yisreil Beiteinu party is expected to finish third in the race. Mr. Netanyahu has vowed to crush the Palestinian militant group Hamas and wants to concentrate on economic issues.

IRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he welcomes talks with the United States based on "mutual respect." Mr. Ahmadinejad said Tuesday at celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution that he hopes U.S. President Barack Obama's foreign policy changes will be, what he called, "fundamental and not just tactical." Hundreds of thousands of Iranians carrying flags, banners and balloons have flooded the streets of Tehran to celebrate the 1979 revolution that toppled Iran's shah and established the rule of clerics under the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. (News Updates)

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