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Obama: "I Don't Want To Run Auto Companies"


President Obama during his prime time news conference Wednesday night said he is hopeful Chrysler will remain a viable company--and that the federal government will be able to remove itself from the auto industry.

"I don't want to run auto companies, and I don't want to run banks," Mr. Obama said. "I've got two wars I've got to run already--I've got more than enough to do."

Chrysler faces a government-imposed deadline to finalize a partnership with Fiat SpA by this Thursday.

"I am more hopeful than I was 30 days ago that we can see a resolution," Mr. Obama said with respect to the deal, though he noted that the "clock is ticking."

The president said deals reached with Chrysler's major debtholders and sacrifices from labor unions improved the automaker's outlook for survival.

"The details have not yet been finalized, but I'm feeling more optimistic than I was about the possibilities of that getting done," Mr. Obama said.

He said, however, that it was "prudent" for Chrysler to prepare contingency plans, including filing for bankruptcy. Given the concessions made by debtholders, Mr. Obama said, it would be likely the company could emerge from bankruptcy proptection quickly.

The president said he saw potential in companies like General Motors, in spite of the fact that the current recession simply added onto the problems faced by an already-weak industry.

"I've always said GM has a lot of good products, and if they can get through these difficult times, they can emerge a strong, competitive viable company," he said.

Mr. Obama also added he would like to see the government extracted from auto business as quickly as possible. It is his responsiblity, he said, to ensure taxpayer dollars "are aimed not at short-term fixes that continue these companies as wards of the state."

He added that workers, as well as company stakeholders, will benefit from the government's assistance in the industry.

"We're going to be coming behind whatever plan is in place to make sure the federal government is providing as much assistance as it can to make sure people are landing back on their feet as we strengthen core businesses," he said.

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