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Barack Obama pays tribute to Selma civil rights activists

US President Barack Obama has paid tribute to the sacrifice and commitment of civil rights activists, in a moving speech at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of a landmark march in Selma, Alabama.

Speaking at the historic Edmund Pettus bridge, which was the scene of a bloody crackdown against marchers in 1965 who were demanding the right to vote, Mr Obama said America owed the activists a debt of gratitude.

President Obama also spoke about recent incidents in America involving black men being killed by the police, particularly the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson.

He insisted that unequal treatment must be addressed but said America had changed since the 1960s.

However, Mr Obama went on to admit that "the race was not yet won" and called on every American to work on tackling discrimination.

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Obama: US will not get dragged into 'another ground war'

President Obama says he will not allow the US to get "dragged back into another ground war" after formally asking Congress to approve military force against Islamic State.

President Obama speaking tonight. Credit: APTN

The US has been carrying out air strikes against Islamic State since last year.

"The United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East - that's not necessary to defeat ISIL," Mr Obama said, citing recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Our coalition is on the offensive, ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose."

He was speaking a day after the death of aid worker Kayla Mueller was confirmed, the fourth American citizen to die in Islamic State captivity.

US warns 'Russian costs will rise' without Ukraine peace deal

The White House said President Barack Obama urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call to agree to a peace deal.

"If Russia continues its aggressive actions in Ukraine, including by sending troops, weapons, and financing to support the separatists, the costs for Russia will rise," the White House statement added.

President Putin in on a trip to Egypt. Credit: Reuters

The Kremlin, in its statement about the call, said Putin and Obama highlighted the need for the need for a political solution to the "internal" conflict in Ukraine.

The Kremlin also said the two leaders also noted the necessity to safeguard the rights of inhabitants of all Ukrainian regions, including Russian-speakers in the east.

Russian aggression 'reinforces unity of US and Europe'

Russian aggression in Ukraine has only reinforced the unity of the US and Europe, President Barack Obama has declared.

Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been holding talks about the prospects of reviving an elusive peace plan to end the conflict.

But while the talking continues, so does the killing in eastern Ukraine.

ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore reports:

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Obama: Concern lethal weapons 'could fall in wrong hands'

US President Barack Obama has expressed concerns that lethal weapons and other military assistance provided to Ukraine could "fall into the wrong hands."

Ukrainian servicemen ride on a self-propelled howitzer in Debaltseve. Credit: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

"Can we be certain that any lethal aid that we provide Ukraine is used properly, doesn't fall into the wrong hands, does not lead to over-aggressive actions that can't be sustained by the Ukrainians?" Obama asked.

"What kinds of reactions does it prompt, not simply from the separatists but from the Russians? Those are all issues that have to be considered," he added.

Obama: We are not looking for Russia to fail

President Barack Obama said the US is "not looking for Russia to fail," but that a cost must be imposed for its continuing aggression in eastern Ukraine.

Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama told reporters: "Our preference is for a strong, prosperous, vibrant, confident Russia that can be a partner with us on a whole host of global challenges.

US President Barack Obama addresses journalists at the White House. Credit: RTV

"Unfortunately Russia has made a decision that I think is bad for them strategically, bad for Europe, bad for the world.

"In the face of this aggression and these bad decisions, we can't simply try to talk them out of it, we have to show them that the world is unified in imposing a cost for this aggression."

Obama: Prospect of military solution 'always been low'

US President Barack Obama said the prospect of a military solution to the Ukraine crisis "has always been low."

Speaking about the economic sanctions placed on Russia, Obama said they would "not relent" until a diplomatic solution is reached with Russia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama. Credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

"It has not yet dissuaded Mr Putin from following the course that he is on, but it has created a measurable negative impact on the Russian economy and that will continue," Obama said.

"The possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that's being examined [should sanctions not work], but I have not made a decision about that," he added.

Obama: US to encourage diplomatic resolution to crisis

President Barack Obama has said the US will continue to encourage a "diplomatic resolution" to the Ukraine crisis.

US President Barack Obama addresses journalists at the White House. Credit: RTV

But Obama warned, "If Russia continues on its current course ... Russia's isolation will only worsen both politically and economically".

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