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Monday, 22 October 2012






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Obama, Romney brace for foreign policy debate clash

* Obama assembles his team at Camp David, the remote presidential retreat

* Romney huddles with top strategists at a sunny beach-side resort in Florida

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are spending the weekend hammering out their foreign policy battle lines ahead of their final debate, dropping off the campaign trail and dispatching their running mates to court voters in battleground states. The debate, which focuses on international affairs, will be the final chance for each to lay out his policy platforms and engage in verbal jousting in front of tens of millions of TV viewers just 15 days before voters head to the polls.

With both sides conceding that the race to November 6 will go down to the wire, and amid a consensus that each candidate won one of the previous two debates, the stakes for Monday’s clash are enormous. And just as they study up on the particulars of US policy about the Middle East, China and Russia, the New York Times reported a possible breakthrough on talks with Iran -- a report quickly squelched by the White House.

Citing unnamed administration officials, the Times reported that Iranian officials had agreed to direct US-Iran talks over Tehran's nuclear program, after years of secret talks between the two sides.

The Iranians insisted that such negotiations wait until after the US election, when they will know who the next president will be, the report said.

The White House swiftly denied any deal had been reached, saying it was still working on a “diplomatic solution.” “It's not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement. The Times story broke just as the two US candidates were hunkered down for debate prep.

Obama was gathering his team at Camp David, the remote presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, while Romney opted for a bit of sun, heading to a beach-side resort in debate site Boca Raton, Florida, where he is huddling with top strategists.

The challenger also took the opportunity to hit up wealthy donors one last time. Romney attended his final fundraising event of the campaign Saturday in Palm Beach, an aide said. Obama attended his final fundraiser earlier this month.

With the candidates off the trail, it was up to their deputies to sway voters.

Vice President Joe Biden was in Orlando, Florida, where he ducked into a campaign field office to energize volunteers before heading to an event in St. Augustine.

“We wanted to come to the epicenter of the epicenter,” Biden said, mindful that the Orlando-Tampa corridor is the most vital region of the largest swing state of all.

“You guys produce, we win Florida,” Biden said. “We win Florida, this is all history, man.” The Republican ticket is placing a similar premium on the Sunshine State.Romney and running mate Paul Ryan shared the stage Friday at a rally in Daytona Beach.

Then Ryan went on a multi-state tour Saturday, from key battleground Florida to Pennsylvania, a state that had been seen as a sure bet for Obama but where Romney has made recent inroads, then Ohio and finally on to Nebraska.

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and creator of a controversial budget plan that envisions dramatic cuts to federal spending, told a crowd in Pennsylvania's Moon Township that America could no longer endure an outsized government. AFP


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