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Thursday, November 15, 2012 9:13:08 AM (IST)  

No Evidence of Security Breach in Petraeus Scandal: Obama

Washington, Nov 15 (IANS/RIA Novosti): US President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he has "no evidence" of security breach in connection with the resignation of CIA chief David Petraeus over an extramarital affair.

"I have no evidence at this point, from what I've seen, that classified information was disclosed that would have had a negative impact on our national security," Obama told reporters in his first news conference since his reelection last week.

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Obama addressed a range of issues Wednesday, including a possible standoff with Republicans over his proposed tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans, the deadly attack on US Embassy in Libya, his plans to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions, and the civil war in Syria.

Obama was clearly eager to move on from questions about the salacious circumstances surrounding Petraeus' exit from the CIA, saying he is "withholding judgment" on a decision by the FBI to wait until after the Nov 6 election to inform the White House of Petraeus' affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

The FBI is said to have learned of the illicit relationship this past summer amid an investigation into Broadwell's alleged cyber-harassment of a woman she reportedly perceived as a rival for the US spy chief's affections.

Law enforcement officials cited by US media have said they withheld information about the case from top US officials because it had not reached the threshold of a national security concern.

"It's also possible that had we been told, you'd be sitting here asking: 'Why were you interfering in a criminal investigation?'" Obama told reporters.

The Petraeus case has also ensnared Gen. John Allen, the top American commander in Afghanistan, who is being investigated for possible "inappropriate communications" with a Florida socialite allegedly harassed by Broadwell via anonymous emails.

Petraeus is scheduled to testify before a US Senate committee Thursday about the Sep 11 attack on an American embassy compound in Benghazi, which left four Americans diplomats dead, including the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

Obama also said Wednesday that he planned to "make a push in the coming months" to "open up a dialogue" with Iran and dissuade Tehran from pursuing a nuclear weapon.

"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," Obama said.

On the matter of the Syrian Civil War, Obama said Wednesday that he is not prepared to recognize the Syrian opposition as a "government in exile", though he said he does consider the umbrella group seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad "a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people."

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