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Washington — President Obama addressed the nation today in a press conference.

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Here are highlights of today’s press conference:

Obama starts with the “terrible earthquake and tsunami” that struck Japan today. Says he has offered Japan “whatever assistance we can,” and noted the proximity of a U.S. aircraft carrier. Warns residents of the U.S. west coast to be wary of fallout from the tsunami. “If you are told to evacuate, do as you are told,” Obama says.

Obama turns to public worry about rising gas prices. Says the U.S. is prepared to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve if necessary, but is also working with global partners to prevent supply disruptions. Noted that the U.S. is using less foreign oil these days, so we are in a position to withstand supply problems from the Middle East or elsewhere.

Obama also seizes the opportunity to promote his alternative energy program. Notes that domestic oil production last year hit its highest level since 2003, and disputes the Republican claim that his economic and environmental policies are hurting U.S. energy production.

– A reporter asks Obama what he is saying to Middle East leaders. Obama says he is telling people in the region that the U.S. supports peaceful protests, and that reform would be good for them and their people. Cites China and India as models of what can happen economically. Says the people of each country should determine which specific course they take. But the fact is we have to develop new energy sources in the long-term. “This is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of,” Obama says. “We’ve been having this conversation for nearly four decades now.”

– Obama said both Republicans and Democrats have to compromise on “prudent cuts” and he doesn’t think it should be that difficult. Notes that the deadline for the current continuing resolution for funding the government expires a week from today, and another short-term CR may be needed by that deadline; but a long-term budget deal is imperative.

Read the rest at USATODAY

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