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Barack Obama returns to White House

  • Barack Obama has returned to Washington focused on ending a deadlock with Republicans over the deficit reduction deal needed to avoid a fiscal crisis.

    The newly re-elected U.S. president faces a fiscal "cliff" of spending cuts and tax rises unless an agreement is reached.

    The Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, but failed to take the Senate.

    House Speaker John Boehner has hinted at the possibility of a compromise if the president agreed to tax reform.

    Boehner, who negotiated with Obama over a so-called "grand bargain" of spending cuts and new revenues last year, said he would accept new revenue-raising as part of a tax reform deal.

    Economists believe the impact of failing to reach a compromise could send the U.S. into recession.

    Cuts to defence, education and other government spending will then automatically come into force - the "fiscal cliff" - unless Congress acts

    Meanwhile, Vice-President Joe Biden told reporters aboard Air Force Two that there was much work to be done.

    "We're really anxious to get moving on, first of all, dealing with the first things first, this fiscal cliff. I think we can do it," Biden said.

    He added the outcome would depend on how cooperative their Republican colleagues were.

    In the president's acceptance speech at his campaign headquarters in Chicago on Tuesday night, Obama also pledged to find ways to work with his campaign rival Mitt Romney.

    When the Republican conceded defeat with a brief speech shortly after midnight on Wednesday in Boston, Romney also urged both parties to "put the people before politics".

    In the state-by-state election battle, Obama has so far won 303 electoral college votes to Mr Romney's 206. A total of 270 are required for victory.

    In Florida, a state with 29 electoral votes, absentee ballots are still being counted and the race remains too close to call.

    The economy was rated as the most important issue by six out of 10 voters in Tuesday's exit polls. However, most of them blamed former President George W. Bush for the downturn.

    Obama was re-elected with the highest unemployment rate, at 7.9 percent, for any incumbent since U.S. wartime leader Franklin Roosevelt.

    With most ballots tallied, more than 117 million people participated in comparison to the record-breaking figures of 131 million seen four years ago.

    Turnout was down sharply in some states, including Texas, as well as states on the northeastern seaboard hit by superstorm Sandy.