Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 10:22 UK

US rivals at odds on debate delay

Mr McCain announces the temporary suspension of his campaign

The two US presidential candidates are in sharp disagreement over whether to postpone a TV debate in light of the country's economic crisis.

Republican John McCain said he was suspending his campaign to return to Washington to deal with the crisis.

But Democratic rival Barack Obama said it was "more important than ever" for US citizens to hear from the person who would soon be "dealing with this mess".

The two men are due to go head-to-head in their first debate on Friday.

On Thursday, they will meet US President George W Bush to discuss the proposed $700bn (378bn) bail-out of the financial markets, which is set to go before Congress.

Mr Bush said in a televised debate on Wednesday that the entire economy was in danger and failure to act now would cost more later.

Shortly before his address, the two presidential hopefuls issued a joint statement, saying: "Now is time to come together - Democrats and Republicans - in a spirit of co-operation for the sake of the American people."

Preparations continue

Mr McCain, on Wednesday, said he was suspending his campaign and called for the candidates' first debate - due to be held in Mississippi - to be delayed so they could focus on the financial crisis.

Barack Obama says he is still planning to attend Friday's debate

He said the $700bn bail-out plan was in danger of being defeated in Congress.

The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Washington says Mr McCain billed his dramatic move as a gesture above party politics at a moment of national crisis.

But, our correspondent says, it was smart tactics too because it conveyed a sense that Mr McCain was taking the lead on an issue where so far voters appear to have been finding Barack Obama more convincing.

McCain is wrong on this one. The debate should go on.
Scott, Seattle, USA

However, in Florida, the Democratic nominee said he was still planning to debate on Friday.

"In my mind it's more important then ever that we present ourselves to the American people and try to describe where we want to take the country and where we want to take the economy," Mr Obama said.

He stressed that he had telephoned Mr McCain first to propose that they issue a joint statement calling for a bipartisan resolution to the crisis.

Mr McCain called back several hours later, Mr Obama said, and agreed to the idea of a statement while giving the impression that he was "mulling over" suspending the debate.

"When I got back to the hotel, he had gone on television to announce what he was going to do," Mr Obama said.

The US Commission on Presidential Debates issued a statement saying that the first of the three planned debates would be held as planned on Friday at the University of Mississippi.

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