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Scramble to save U.S. bailout plan

— PHOTO: AFP

U.S. President George W. Bush (centre) at a meeting with bicameral members of Congress, including the presidential candidates John McCain (left) and Democrat Barack Obama (right), at the White House on Thursday.

WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush scrambled on Friday to bring rebellious members of his own party behind a multibillion-dollar government bailout of the U.S. financial system as members of U.S. Congress traded recriminations over failed negotiations.

Mr. Bush delivered a terse statement from the White House, acknowledging legislators have a right to express their doubts, but declaring they must “rise to the occasion” and approve a plan to avert an economic meltdown. “There are disagreements over aspects of the rescue plan,” he said, adding: “but there is no disagreement that something substantial must be done. We are going to get a package passed.”

Earlier on Friday, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank declared that an agreement depends on House Republicans “dropping this revolt” against the Bush-requested plan. He said he and other leading Democrats in Congress were shocked by the level of divisiveness that surfaced at Thursday’s extraordinary White House meeting, leaving six days of intensive efforts to agree on a bailout plan in tatters only hours after key players of both parties had declared they were in accord on the outlines of a $700 billion Bill.

And the campaign season’s first face-to-face debate between presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, scheduled for Friday night, was still in doubt. Democrats have now put the responsibility on Mr. Bush for getting a rescue package back on track. — AP

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