He also used the occasion to hit out at Republican Presidential candidates like Donald Trump, who has proposed to temporarily bar all Muslims from travelling to the US.

"We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion," Obama, the first ever African-American President, said in his hour-long prime-time speech marked with applause for as many as 64 times.

"That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country," Obama said, adding that a better politics doesn't mean one has to agree on everything.

Obama said 'one of the few regrets' of his Presidency was that – after he ran on a message of unity and healing – American politics had become more divided and resentful on his watch.

Warning that "instability will continue for decades" in many parts of the world including Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama said both al-Qaeda and ISIS pose a direct threat to the US and America's foreign policy has to be focused on the threat from ISIL and Al Qaida.

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