President Barack Obama speaks on economy, Russia, Iraq, Syria

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama spoke from the White House Thursday afternoon on several issues, beginning with the economy.

He said there was reason to feel good about the direction the country is heading.

Obama also said he wants to push Congress to take more action to move the economy along.

The president also addressed the situation in Iraq saying American crews continue with air strikes with the focus to protect American personnel on the ground.

He said ISIL poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and the area.

He played down the prospect of imminent U.S. military action in Syria saying “we don’t have a strategy yet” for degrading the militant group seeking to establish themselves in the Middle East.

Obama said he’s also considering expanding air strikes on Islamic state targets in Syria.

Obama said confronting the Islamic State militants requires a regional strategy with support from other countries in the region.

In speaking about the escalating violence in eastern Ukraine, Obama put blame on Russia.

He said Russia is encouraging, training and funding pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will visit the White House next month, Obama said.

Obama said he has spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said Russia’s incursion into Ukraine will bring additional consequences.

He said the international community is mobilizing to put pressure on Russia.

Obama said it is “not in the cards” to see a military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia in the region.

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