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Obama bookends SOTU speech with foreign policy

President Obama took little time out of his State of the Union message to highlight his foreign policy achievements, but he used his foreign policy as bookends of success at the beginning and end of his address.

American leadership is strong worldwide, Mr. Obama told his audience of lawmakers and VIPs. In Iran, sanctions have teeth and no options are off the table; Europe ties are strong; Osama bin Laden and Qaddafi are out as security threats to Americans, and al Qaeda's strength is diminished.

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He challenged Congress to hand him a comprehensive immigration plan and to stop deporting skilled undocumented young people.

Mr. Obama described America's commitment to Israel as "iron-clad," but said the U.S. stands for the rights and dignity of "Christians, Muslims, and Jews."

The president said the U.S. has become a Pacific power, highlighting the diplomatic help leant in Burma, which has seen a dramatic softening by the military rulers in control.

On the world news of the day, Mr. Obama said the United States would continue to "support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty,"

He added that in Syria, where a brutal regime crackdown on opposition continues: "The Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can't be reversed."

"America is back," he said, alluding to the poor foreign image of his predecessor.

Telling Americans that cuts in the defense budget and the withdrawal of troops from Iraq have not reduced U.S. influence abroad, he said "anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about."

"That's not the message we get from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work with us. That's not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they've been in years."

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