Obama says 'shadow of crisis has passed'

President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

US President Barack Obama has declared an end to the US recession at the annual State of the Union address.

President Barack Obama has declared America has turned the page on years of war and economic hardship, in a populist-tinged State of the Union address that set up the battle to succeed him.

Emboldened by a stronger economy and better approval ratings, Obama called for a new chapter in US history that ushers in a fairer economy with a better shake for the middle class.

"We are 15 years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world," he said.

"It has been, and still is, a hard time for many. But tonight, we turn the page.

"The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong," Obama said, claiming credit for ending the recession.

He heralded the "growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production" that have also helped revive his political fortunes as his time in the White House nears its end.

Appealing to Democrats determined to retain the White House in 2016, Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, equal pay for women and tax breaks for the middle class.

Drawing a stark contrast with tax-averse Republicans, he dared his foes to oppose proposed tax hikes for the rich that would pay for middle class breaks.

"We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It's now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

"Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?" he asked.

Obama's Republican opponents have branded such talk as little more than class warfare and will use their majority in both houses of Congress to make sure the plans never become law.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst, who was tasked with rebutting Obama's speech, said Americans are still suffering from "stagnant wages and lost jobs."

She also decried Obama's "failed policies" and a "stale mindset" that led to "political talking points, not serious solutions."

Obama also redoubled calls to end the half-century-old embargo on Cuba and vowed to veto any move to put further sanctions on Iran.

"Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere," he said.

On Iran, Obama warned any move to impose new sanctions could scupper delicate negotiations aimed at reaching a complex nuclear deal.

"New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails ," he said.

"That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress."

Obama also used the speech to call on Congress to authorise the use of force against the Islamic State jihadist group.

"In Iraq and Syria, American leadership - including our military power - is stopping ISIL's advance."

"This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed."

US politicians paid tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks by holding up pencils during the speech.

Source: AAP

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