UPDATE 1-Obama points finger at Republicans for failure to avert spending cuts

WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama heaped blame on Republicans on Friday for the failure to break a deadlock in efforts to avert looming automatic spending cuts and warned that a "ripple effect" would start hurting the middle class and the overall U.S. economy.

In a news conference after talks with congressional leaders, Obama said he hoped that Republicans, after hearing complaints from their constituents about the impacts of the cuts, will come back to the bargaining table. He predicted this would take two weeks to two months.

The president rejected a reporter's suggestion that he could force Republicans to remain at the White House until they reach an agreement.

"I'm not a dictator, I'm the president," he said.

Obama, who met for about an hour with the top two Republicans and top two Democrats in Congress, said he would keep reaching out to a "caucus of common sense" among lawmakers on Capitol Hill and is looking for a compromise in coming days and weeks once the cuts start taking effect later on Friday.

Obama wants Republicans to agree to eliminate tax loopholes enjoyed largely by the wealthy in order to help reduce the U.S. budget deficit. Republicans have ruled out raising taxes and want spending cuts instead.

Obama pointed to polls that suggest more Americans agree with him than with his opponents.

"We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and the country on this," he said.