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Obama to meet labor, business leaders for fiscal talks

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U.S. President Barack Obama talks with workers about the economy as he visits the Lordstown Complex General Motors Plant in Warren, Ohio, September 15, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing
U.S. President Barack Obama talks with workers about the economy as he visits the Lordstown Complex General Motors Plant in Warren, Ohio, September 15, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing

By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will meet business, labor and civic leaders this week ahead of negotiations with top lawmakers to avert sharp tax hikes and deep spending cuts that loom at the end of the year, a White House official said late on Sunday.

The president wants to find "a balanced solution to our deficit challenges" and a way to move the economy forward, the official said.

Obama, re-elected to a second four-year term on Tuesday, faces the immediate challenge of preventing the so-called "fiscal cliff," a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases due to be implemented in early 2013 that may cut the federal budget deficit, but also tip the economy back into recession.

Obama has scheduled a meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate on Friday to begin negotiations.

The president will meet with leaders from the labor community and other leaders of the progressive political movement on Tuesday, the official said. Obama will meet with business leaders on Wednesday and civic leaders on Friday, the White House official said.

The president and congressional Republicans have sounded conciliatory notes since the election on reaching a deal to avoid the sudden fiscal shock. The two sides are at odds over raising taxes for top earners.

Obama insisted in his re-election campaign that the wealthy should pay more as part of any fiscal deal, and has said his victory at the polls is an endorsement of that view.

Still, on Sunday, two Republican Senators made comments that could be seen as suggesting they may be willing to negotiate. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said he had some sympathy for the view that there need to be more government revenues as part of any deficit reduction deal.

"There has to be revenues," he said on Fox News Sunday. "Look, I haven't met a wealthy Republican or Democrat in Tennessee that's not willing to contribute more as long as they know we solve the problem," Corker said.

Separately, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn said there were ways to eliminate tax loopholes for top earners that could provide additional funds for government coffers.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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