28 Jan 2010

Jobs, economy focus of State of Union speech

10:27 pm on 28 January 2010

United States President Barack Obama has delivered his first State of the Union address, with the main focus on jobs and the economy.

Mr Obama said the worst of the financial storm had passed, but admitted that change had not come fast enough.

The BBC reports it was a sober speech for serious times. With 1 in 10 Americans looking for work, Mr Obama called for the US Congress to move quickly on a job creation bill.

He promised tax cuts for small businesses and pledged to double American exports in five years.

Mr Obama offered no new strategy for healthcare reform which remains mired in Congress and scolded lawmakers, particularly Republicans, for the bitter partisanship of the past year.

The president talked optimistically about the capacity of the American people to endure hardships and come through stronger.

However, the BBC reports that at times Mr Obama sounded defensive, saying he never suggested he could bring the change he promised all by himself.

He defended the controversial bank bailouts, saying they were necessary to save the economy.

"When I ran for president, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular - I would do what was necessary," he said.

On foreign policy, he described the threat of nuclear weapons as possibly the greatest danger confronting the United States.

Mr Obama said diplomatic efforts had increased North Korea's isolation and warned that Iran's leadership would also face growing consequences if it continued to ignore its obligations.

He reiterated that the number of US troops in Afghanistan would be further increased.