Obama takes first swipe in year-end spending showdown

The White House says US President Barack Obama would not sign legislation that extends the current lower tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. 

Mr Obama will hold talks with congressional leaders at the White House next Friday on avoiding the looming steep government spending cuts and tax rises. 

In a statement delivered earlier at the White House, Mr Obama said he would launch discussions to try to reach a deficit reduction deal that eluded the White House and congressional Republicans in 2011.

The president urged lawmakers to immediately pass an extension of tax cuts on most Americans with the exception of the top earners. 

The tax cuts are due to expire at the end of the year. 

Republicans have said they would agree to increasing government revenues, but have objected to any increases in tax rates.