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U.S. running mates take part in sole debate

  • U.S. vice-presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan clashed in their sole debate as poll margins tightened ahead of the November 6 election.

    Thursday night's debate saw spirited exchanges on national security, the economy and healthcare.

    The debate took place at Center College in Danville, Kentucky and was moderated by Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

    Biden, a Democrat frequently interrupted his rival as he defended President Barack Obama’s record.

    Ryan, a Republican Wisconsin congressman, was comparatively composed in his first debate on the national stage.

    The face off came as Democrats try to boost their campaign after what was widely seen as a poor debate performance by the incumbent last week.

    His Republican rival, former Massachusetts governor and businessman Mitt Romney, produced a surprisingly strong performance and has witnessed steady gains in the polls as a result.

    Obama was slated for appearing uncertain and failing to grab opportunities to attack his rival on his business record at Bain Capital, the "47 percent" video and his refusal to release more income tax returns.

    The president has acknowledged he was "too polite".

    The vice-president, on the other hand, repeatedly cut off Ryan, laughed to himself and rolled his eyes and raised his hands in exasperation while he referred to his rival as "my friend".

    The debate opened with a question on Libya, where a U.S. ambassador was killed last month in what the Obama administration now calls a terrorist attack.

    Biden defended Obama handling of the situation, as well as the initially inaccurate understanding of the incident as a reaction to an anti-Islamic video made in the U.S.

    He went on to attack Romney, saying the Republican's decision to hold a political press conference the morning after the attack was "not presidential leadership".

    Ryan, meanwhile, said the administration had dismissed diplomats' requests for more security in Libya.

    The men also argued about Iran and the U.S. relationship with Israel.

    Biden said international sanctions against Iran had crippled the country’s economy, and challenged Ryan to clarify how Republican policy on Iran differs from the administration's.

    On the economy, Biden said the president had inherited a nation teetering on ruin due to the Republican policies of George W. Bush and vehemently defended Obama’s solutions.

    Biden also slated Romney for his recently publicized comments that the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax are dependent on government and consider themselves victims.

    Ryan hit back by referring to Biden's own record of making gaffes.

    Later, the two rivals outlined their plans on the Medicare healthcare program for over-65s.

    Biden defended the administration's 2010 health insurance revamp, known as Obamacare while Ryan described it as a government takeover of the healthcare industry.

    The next debate between Obama and Romney takes place on October 16 in Hempstead, New York and will focus on foreign policy.