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President Obama Holds News Conference at the White House

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President Barack Obama held a news conference at the White House on Friday, fielding questions from the press on topics ranging from the economy to national security to peace talks in the Middle East.

During the news conference, the president reiterated many of the remarks he's made over the course of the past several weeks, and spent some time defending his new economic plan. The president is calling for an extension of tax cuts for the middle class, and investment in the nation's infrastructure to help create jobs. He also singled out a small group of Senate Republicans once again, for stalling what he says is a crucial jobs bill for small businesses. The measure would give tax cuts to small business owners, and free up loans. The president also acknowledged that economic recovery has been slow. And he took the opportunity on Friday to formally name Austan Goolsbee, an economist with the University of Chicago, as the nation's new director of the Council of American Advisers. He replaces Christina Romer, who has resigned.

In response to a question about Middle East peace talks, the president said the process will be difficult, and that ultimately, it is up to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reach a lasting agreement. "I remain hopeful, but this is going to be tough," Obama said. "It's a risk worth taking because the alternative is a status quo that is unsustainable."

He also acknowledged that a stable Middle East is advantageous to security in the region and at home. The president said that while the threat of terrorism continues to exist, it should not "distort us." In response to a question about the wisdom of building an Islamic mosque and cultural center near the World Trade Center site, Obama re-affirmed the rights of all Americans.

 "We are not at war against Islam," Obama said. "We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam, or falsely used Islam, or falsely used the banner of Islam, to engage in their destructive acts."