Obama says he admires pontiff’s inclusive spirit

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama had warm words Wednesday for what he sees as Pope Francis' inclusive attitude in recent remarks urging the Roman Catholic church not to focus only on abortion or gays.

In an interview with CNBC on the shrill standoff between Republicans and Democrats that has produced the first partial US government shutdown in 17 years, Obama was asked about the Argentina-born pope's moderate tone. "I have been hugely impressed with the pope's pronouncements. Not because of any particular issue, but- you know, first of all, he seems somebody who- lives out- the teachings of Christ," Obama said.

Pope Francis seems to have an "incredible humility- incredible sense of empathy to the least of these, to the poor. And he's also somebody who's, I think first and foremost, thinking about how to embrace people as opposed to push them away.

"That sense of love and unity- seems to manifest itself in not just what he says, but also what he does. And, you know, for any religious leader - that's a quality I admire," he stressed.

There were no signs of moderation in the US political crisis Wednesday as talks between an exasperated Obama and top Republicans failed to end a government shutdown, with both sides accusing the other of refusing to negotiate.