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McCain, Obama Leave Washington to Attend First Debate

Both leading U.S. presidential candidates will be in the city of Oxford, in the southern state of Mississippi for their first debate Friday night.

The status of the debate had been in limbo after Republican nominee John McCain said he would not attend if a plan to bailout the troubled U.S. financial sector was not in place.

A statement by McCain's campaign Friday, said there has been significant progress.

Before leaving for the debate, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama told reporters there had been what he called "real progress" on a bailout plan.

Both candidates say they will return to Washington following the debate.

Talks at the White House with U.S. President George Bush, McCain, Obama and other leading lawmakers fell apart late Thursday.

Afterwards, Obama told CNN television he worried that injecting presidential politics into negotiations would do more harm than good. And Democratic lawmakers accused McCain of using the financial crisis to boost his campaign.

The McCain campaign accused Obama of turning the critical White House meeting into a political shouting match.

Obama had said he would attend the debate even if a deal was not in place.

McCain and Obama are scheduled to debate foreign policy at tonight's event at the University of Mississippi.

McCain announced Wednesday he was putting his campaign on hiatus to take part in the negotiations in Washington on the Bush administration's financial rescue plan.

Obama said Thursday that with the election just 40 days away, the U.S. economy in crisis and the nation fighting two wars abroad, the American people deserve to hear directly from the two candidates on how they intend to lead the country.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.