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Bush, Obama trade barbs on economy, foreign policy
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08:57, February 29, 2008

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· U.S. Presidential Election 2008
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U.S. President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama traded punches Thursday on economy and foreign policy.

During a news conference at the White House, Bush said while he is "concerned about the economy," and there is "no question we're in a slowdown", he does not think "we're headed to a recession."

Obama, a Senator from Illinois, responded with comments aimed at Bush.

"We are not standing on the brink of recession because of forces beyond our control," he told a town hall forum in Austin, Texas.

"This was not an inevitable part of the business cycle. It was a failure of leadership in Washington -- a Washington where George W. Bush hands out billions of tax cuts to the wealthiest few for eight long years," Obama said.

At the news conference, Bush also harshly criticized Obama for being open to meetings with U.S. foes without preconditions, saying it would send the wrong message to foreign dictators and dissidents in those countries.

Last summer, Obama said he would be willing to meet with the leaders of Iran and Syria without preconditions during a Democratic debate, a position criticized by Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, his main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He recently added Cuba's new leader Raul Castro to that list.

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