WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States President Barack Obama urged Congress on Tuesday to raise the federal minimum wage, challenging legislators to help reverse deepening income disparity across the country.
"Give America a raise," Mr Obama told Congress in his State of the Union speech, urging support for a proposed Bill that would hike the base rate nearly 40 per cent.
The United States has turned a corner after struggling to escape the economic downturn and is poised for recovery, Mr Obama declared.
"That's why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America," he said. "After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth."
He also vowed on Tuesday to veto any new Bill by lawmakers to impose new sanctions against Iran in the middle of delicate negotiations to rein in its nuclear programme.
"The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions Bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed," Mr Obama said.
The threat from US arch foe Al-Qaeda is evolving and taking root in new places around the world, Mr Obama warned.
"In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks," Mr Obama told US lawmakers, adding the United States had put "Al-Qaeda's core leadership on the path to defeat".