PRESIDENT Barack Obama is ready to work with congressional Republicans on a plan to cut deficits – as long it includes higher taxes on the wealthy.

Obama, accused of pushing the country toward the "fiscal cliff", is battling on how best to avoid sharp tax hikes and spending cuts that could plunge the economy back into recession.

He called on Republicans to extend middle-class tax cuts while letting tax rates go up for the wealthy. Obama also wants to find ways to bring down healthcare costs and make cuts to government social safety-net programmes.

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