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White House Gears Up For Bush-Obama Talks

U.S. President George Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet Monday at 2PM in the White House. Mr. Obama and his family will get a tour of the White House from President Bush and first lady Laura Bush. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports it will be their first opportunity to speak face-to-face since the November 4 election.

It is traditional for the incoming president and first lady to visit the White House after Election Day.

Usually they wait a few weeks. But this time the meeting between the current president and the president-elect was arranged in a matter of days.

That is in part because this is the first transition in four decades to occur at a time when the United States is at war. It is also taking place in the midst of an economic crisis that demands immediate attention.

President-elect Obama says dealing with the economy is his top priority.

"I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead," said Barack Obama. "We have taken some major actions to date, and we will need further actions during this transition and subsequent months."

Mr. Obama has said he will move with - what he calls - deliberate haste to choose his cabinet. Aides stress he understands the urgency, but wants to make sure he has the best possible people in place.

John Podesta heads the Obama transition team. During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, he was asked about the need to move quickly to reassure financial markets.

"I think we are moving aggressively to build up that core economic team, the national security team, and you will see announcements when they are ready," said John Podesta.

Podesta said the incoming administration is also taking a close look at many of the executive orders signed by President Bush that are at odds with Mr. Obama's views.

"... on stem cell research, on a number of areas," he said. "You see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things I think are not in the interest of the country."

He said these executive orders could be repealed or amended easily by the new administration because no Congressional action is required.

But despite their differences on matters of policy, President Bush and President-elect Obama are going out of their way to stress their willingness to cooperate during the transition period.

Mr. Bush has ordered his staff to make the transition as seamless as possible. And Mr. Obama has repeatedly stressed that until January 20, George Bush is the President of the United States.

Perhaps to underscore that point, the president-elect will not be attending the major economic summit Mr. Bush is hosting in Washington on November 15th. He has, however, been talking to other world leaders by telephone.

On Saturday, Mr. Obama spoke for the first time since the election with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. A Kremlin statement said they agreed that their countries have a common responsibility to address serious global problems. It also mentioned the possibility of an early meeting once the president-elect takes office.

Relations with Russia are strained over a Bush administration plan to set up a missile-defense system with sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. During the U.S. presidential campaign, Senator Obama said he needs more proof that the plan will work and the high cost is justified.