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WASHINGTON – Face to face with time running short, President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner negotiated at the White House Thursday night in what aides called “frank” talks aimed at breaking a stubborn deadlock and steering the nation away from an economy-threatening “fiscal cliff.”

Boehner returned to the Capitol an hour later, briskly walking past reporters without comment. There was no indication whether any progress had been made, though the use of the word “frank” by both sides to describe the talks suggested the president and the speaker stuck hard to their opposing positions.