Obama takes on economy, wars during first day

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama began his first day in office Wednesday with a prayer, followed by meetings with aides to discuss the economic crisis and foreign policy.

While attending an afternoon swearing-in ceremony of the executive staff, President Obama signed an executive order freezing pay of White House employees who earn more than $100,000 a year.

Obama also announced a change in policy that will require each federal agency and departments to give full attention to Freedom of Information requests and said he expects members of his administration to be responsive to such pleas.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this administration," Obama said in a statement to reporters.

President Obama held a teleconference with top military commanders, including generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, Wednesday afternoon to discuss plans to withdraw troops from Iraq within 16 months. During his campaign, Obama promised to bolster American presence in Afghanistan, where a resurgent Taliban has been gaining ground.

In the meantime, the Senate confirmed Hillary Rodham Clinton to become secretary of state.

Republicans and Democrat alike say her swift confirmation was necessary so that President Obama could begin tackling the major foreign policy issues at hand, including two wars, increased violence in the Middle East and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Immediately after the vote, Clinton was to be sworn in during a private ceremony at the Capitol.

Associated Press reports contributed to this article.

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