Key quotes from Obama news conference

President Barack Obama on Wednesday gave his first news conference since winning re-election on November 6. Here are some highlights:

ON FORMER CIA DIRECTOR DAVID PETRAEUS' AFFAIR:

"I have no evidence at this point from what I've seen that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security."

"By his own assessment, he did not meet the standards that he felt were necessary as the Director of CIA with respect to this personal matter that he is now dealing with, with his family and with his wife."

ON THE FISCAL CLIFF:

"We face a very clear deadline that requires us to make some big decisions on jobs, taxes and deficits by the end of the year. As I've said before, I'm open to compromise and I'm open to new ideas."

"We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy ... So I want a big deal. I want a comprehensive deal."

ON SYRIAN OPPOSITION:

"We're not yet prepared to recognize them as some sort of government in exile, but we do think that it is a broad-based representative group. One of the questions that we're going to continue to press is making sure that that opposition is committed to a democratic Syria, an inclusive Syria, a moderate Syria."

"One of the things that we have to be on guard about ... is that we're not indirectly putting arms in the hands of folks who would do Americans harm, or do Israelis harm, or otherwise engage in actions that are detrimental to our national security."

ON IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM:

"I was very clear before the campaign, I was clear during the campaign, and I'm now clear after the campaign -- we're not going to let Iran get a nuclear weapon. But I think there is still a window of time for us to resolve this diplomatically."

"I will try to make a push in the coming months to see if we can open up a dialogue between Iran and not just us, but the international community, to see if we can get this things resolved."

ON REPUBLICAN ATTACKS ON UN AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE

"Let me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace."

"If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I'm happy to have that discussion with them.

"But for them to go after the UN Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous."

ON IMMIGRATION REFORM:

"We need to seize the moment. And my expectation is that we get a bill introduced and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration.

"And in fact, some conversations I think are already beginning to take place among senators and congressmen and my staff about what would this look like."

ON CLIMATE CHANGE:

"I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it."

"So what I'm going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what can -- what more can we do to make a short-term progress in reducing carbons."

--

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