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TIPTOEING TOWARD FINANCIAL CLIFF

President Obama and congressional leaders meet privately to discuss taxes and spending.

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama and congressional leaders were optimistic Friday after opening talks aimed at avoiding a tumble over the "fiscal cliff," offering hints of a compromise that would combine new tax revenue with steep spending cuts.

Their hourlong meeting at the White House kicked off what is likely to be an intense, unpredictable November and December as Congress and the White House grapple with how to deal with Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of next month and $109 billion in across-the-board spending reductions due to take effect Jan. 2.

Obama said after Friday's meeting that they had agreed to work together to find a solution that "includes both revenues and cuts in spending." The challenge, he said, was to cooperate, "work together, find some common ground, make some tough compromises."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who have been loath to consider tax increases as part of a solution to tame the deficit, said after the closed-door meeting that Republicans might consider taxes if they were accompanied by significant spending reductions.

"We are prepared to put revenue on the table, provided we fix the real problem," McConnell said, adding that most of his caucus thinks that "we're in the dilemma we're in not because we taxed too little, but because we spent too much."

Obama and lawmakers agreed that staffers would begin working on a framework that would be presented to the White House and lawmakers after the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Obama heads to Asia, his fourth trip there

President Barack Obama leaves today for a four-day trip to Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, his first trip abroad since June and his fourth to Asia. The trip underscores Obama's goal of establishing the United States as an Asian-Pacific counterweight to China.

Associated Press

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