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Page last updated at 16:40 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 17:40 UK

US rivals in economy crisis talks

Barack Obama, left, and John McCain
The two presidential candidates have called for bipartisan action

Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama are preparing to meet President George W Bush amid hopes of an emergency deal on the economy.

The White House says lawmakers are making progress on a proposed $700bn (378bn) plan to aid failing firms - Mr Bush is pushing for a quick agreement.

He has said the whole US economy is in peril and urged Congress to act.

Mr McCain has suspended his campaign over the crisis, but Mr Obama says voters should hear from the candidates.

The two men are scheduled to attend a meeting with the president and congressional leaders at 1600 local time (2000 GMT).

Reports from Washington suggested both Republican and Democratic members of Congress were closing in on a deal acceptable to all sides throughout during a series of meetings on Thursday morning.

The two parties were hoping for a bipartisan consensus to emerge in time for the candidates and president to rubber-stamp a deal at the White House in the afternoon, the New York Times reported.

On Wall Street, shares rose on the news of a possible agreement.

Key figures on each side suggested on Thursday that compromise was being reached on a number of contentious issues, among them the issue of limiting the pay of executives whose companies are given government help.

Lawmakers say the proposal is proving unpopular with voters, many of whom are concerned about the use of public funds to fix problems caused by bad corporate practice on Wall Street.

Debate concern

In a joint statement late on Wednesday, the two presidential candidates described the Bush administration's planned bail-out plan as "flawed", but said efforts to protect the economy must not fail.

The economy is now dominating the presidential campaign

"This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country. We cannot risk an economic catastrophe," they said.

Meanwhile, the two rivals have disagreed on delaying a TV debate over the economic turmoil.

Mr McCain said he was suspending his campaign to return to Washington to help agree a deal, saying he feared the rescue package would not pass "as it currently stands".

He also called for his first presidential debate with Mr Obama on Friday to be suspended - something Mr Obama did not support.

Americans needed to "hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible for dealing with this mess", Mr Obama told journalists.

The American taxpayer should not be expected to pick up the tab for every giant, greedy corporate misfortune
Richard Savary
Pasadena, California

Mr McCain stressed his desire to help Congress agree a viable deal in a speech on Thursday to the Clinton Global Initiative, a conference headed by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Mr McCain insisted on clear oversight of any plan, and said no Wall Street executives should profit from the injection of public cash.

But he made no mention of Friday's planned presidential debate, instead praising Mr Obama's decision to join him in Washington to broker a deal.

"Poor decisions made in haste can turn a crisis into a far-reaching disaster," he said.

'Excesses on Wall Street'

Mr Bush made his grave pronouncement on the crisis during a televised address to the nation on the economy on Wednesday evening.

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Major sectors of America's financial system were at risk of shutting down, he said, and without action a "distressing scenario" would unfold.

His administration is calling on Congress to approve the proposed bail-out - under which the Treasury would use public money to buy bad debt from troubled financial institutions - as soon as possible.

The fund would aim to sell off these mortgage-related debts in the future when, the Treasury says, their value might have risen.

Lawmakers want assurances that it will benefit home-owners as well as Wall Street, and be subject to adequate oversight.

Mr Bush said he understood the frustration of "responsible Americans" who "are reluctant to pay the costs of excesses on Wall Street".

"But given the situation we're facing, not passing a bill now will cost these Americans much more later," he said, calling for a bipartisan commission to oversee the plan.





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