Obama vows to 'regain America's moral stature'

In his first major interview since becoming US president-elect, Barack Obama pledged to jumpstart the economy, decommission forces in Iraq and close the Guantanamo Bay prison as part of efforts to improve relations with the world.


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President-elect Barack Obama vowed to pull troops out of Iraq, crush Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and shut down the Guantanamo Bay camp as part of a dramatic foreign policy break with George W. Bush.

In his first major post-election interview, with CBS program "60 Minutes," the Democrat signaled no retreat from expansive campaign promises that have pleased US allies, even while adding little detail to how he will fulfill them.

Repairing the stricken US economy will be priority number one, and at least one Republican will fill his cabinet, Obama said in the broad-ranging interview taped Friday and broadcast Sunday.

Following his election triumph of November 4, Obama confirmed that he had met former Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton last week but refused to comment on speculation linking her to the job of secretary of state.

As soon as he succeeds Bush on January 20, Obama said, "I will call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my national security apparatus, and we will start executing a plan that draws down our troops" from Iraq.

"Particularly in light of the problems that we're having in Afghanistan, which has continued to worsen. We've got to shore up those efforts," he said.

On the campaign trail, Obama vowed to pull one or two combat brigades out of Iraq every month until after 16 months, only a residual security force of unspecified size remains. Some of those brigades would head to Afghanistan.

He told CBS that from his inauguration, "it is a top priority for us to stamp out Al-Qaeda once and for all" and that killing or capturing the group's mastermind Osama bin Laden was "critical" to US security.

Obama also pledged to make short work of tackling offshoots of Bush's "war on terror" -- the internment camp operated by the US military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and harsh interrogations of captured terror suspects.

"I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that," the president-elect said.

"I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture. And I'm going to make sure that we don't torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world," Obama added.

But he did not elaborate on where the Guantanamo prisoners would be taken, whether they would be transferred to civilian custody in the United States itself, put on trial, or released.

Redeploying troops out of Iraq or shutting down Guantanamo could be done effectively by decree using Obama's presidential prerogatives, and the president-elect is examining a slew of "executive orders" signed by Bush.

Obama said that in Congress, his first legislative priority was getting another stimulus package passed to prop up the enfeebled economy if Democrats in the outgoing legislature fail to overcome Republican opposition.

As already shown in excerpts released by CBS, Obama said it would be a "disaster" for the government to stand by and let the cash-strapped General Motors and the auto industry in general collapse.

In line with the outcome of a summit Saturday of the world's 20 biggest economies, the president-elect said forging new regulation of the financial markets was essential to restoring the trust of consumers.

Obama appeared unconcerned about the sea of red ink engulfing the US government's finances, arguing that economists from left and right agreed that "we have to do whatever it takes to get this economy moving again."

"And that we shouldn't 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," he said.

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