U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday afternoon that while an agreement to avert the set of automatic tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff is "within sight," the deal is "not done.

Addressing a friendly crowd at a White House event, the president asked lawmakers for a final effort to reach a compromise before the year is out.

The proposal now under consideration would raise taxes on couples earning more than $450,000 a year - Obama had wanted a threshold of $250,000 - and jobless benefits would be extended for a year.

Obama recalled that his preference "would have been to solve all these problems in the context of a larger agreement, a bigger deal, a grand bargain, whatever you want to call it, that solves our deficit problems in a balanced and responsible way."

"But with this Congress, that was obviously a little too much to hope for at this time," he said.

"(F)or now, our most immediate priority is to stop taxes going up for middle-class families, starting tomorrow. I think that is a modest goal that we can accomplish. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have to get this done. But they're not there yet. They are close, but they're not there yet," the president said.

If Republican and Democrat legislators do not strike an agreement before midnight on Monday, tax increases for all Americans will enter into force along with cuts in all federal government spending, and some 2.3 million people will lose their unemployment benefits. EFE