WASHINGTON (AFP) – The top US senator, a key White House ally, warned President Barack Obama Friday not to drop possible tax hikes on the rich from negotiations on a deal to avert a disastrous early August debt default.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, noting that Obama was in talks with Republican House Speaker John Boehner, declared: “I wish them well, we await their efforts” before sounding a sternly cautionary note.

“I say to both the president and to the speaker here on the Senate floor, representing my Democrats and, I’m confident, many Republicans: Be very careful,” said Reid.

“Show a lot of caution as this negotiation goes forward because any arrangement must be fair to all America, not just the wealthy,” he added.

Reid reportedly expressed shock and anger Thursday at news reports that Obama was closing in on a deal with Boehner that would cut some $3 trillion dollars in government spending and slice into social safety net programs dear to Democrats without tying those to tax hikes on the rich, which Republicans oppose.

With time fast running out before an August 2 deadline, Democrats have warned they will not accept any deal that cuts government-backed health and retirement benefits without also exacting a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans.

Republicans have vowed to defeat any new tax hike as part of a package to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, allowing cash-strapped Washington to meet its obligations.

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