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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 March, 2004, 06:23 GMT
Kerry demands debates with Bush
John Kerry
Kerry: Said debates could start this spring
US Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry has challenged US President George W Bush to a series of monthly debates on America's "real issues".

"I believe the American people are hungry for a genuine conversation about the fundamental questions before us," Mr Kerry told supporters.

Mr Kerry said US voters were tired of negative campaigning.

But a spokesman for Mr Bush rejected the proposal, saying Mr Kerry had run negative ads against the president.

'Exchanging insults'

Mr Kerry, speaking to a group of more than 1,000 supporters in Quincy, Illinois, said that US voters should not have to put up with "eight months of sniping" in the run-up to November's presidential election.

John Kerry should finish the debate with himself
Steve Schmidt
Bush campaign spokesman
"Today, campaigns too often generate more heat than light," the Massachusetts senator said.

"Candidates find it easier to exchange insults than to face issues.

"Six-second sound bites on the evening news and 30-second attack ads all day long dominate the airwaves of a great nation."

Ads controversy

Mr Kerry, the presumptive nominee for the Democratic nomination, said the proposed monthly debates could start this spring.

Image of World Trade Center behind US flag in Bush television ad
Some of Bush's ads have caused controversy
The presidential candidates are already scheduled to hold three debates beginning in late September before the election, with the vice presidential candidates holding a fourth debate.

However, Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt rejected Mr Kerry's proposal as hypocritical.

"After calling Republicans crooks and liars, running 17 negative ads over 15,000 times and spending $6.3 million attacking the president, John Kerry is calling for a civil debate on the issues," Mr Schmidt said.

"John Kerry should finish the debate with himself."

In early, March the Bush camp unveiled its first television campaign ads ahead of the election.

The ads caused controversy as some of them contained images from the September 2001 terror attacks - a move which led to condemnation from some victims' families.

Mr Kerry's campaign released ads on Friday defending his record following the Bush campaign's attacks.

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