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Obama, Romney in dead heat ahead of third debate

US President Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, are running neck-and-neck in the polls ahead of Monday’s televised debate. This is last chance for the two candidates to face off in front of million of viewers.

The third of three televised debates in the US presidential election campaign is to be held in Boca Raton, Florida, and focus on foreign policy issues. The main topics of discussion are expected to include Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, China, and Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Romney has accused Obama of weakening US influence abroad, while the president's supporters point to foreign policy successes during his four years in office, including the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the end of the war in Iraq, and plans to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Vice President Joe Biden seized on that issue during a campaign stop in the swing state of Ohio on Monday.

"The President and I have made it absolutely clear we will leave Afghanistan in 2014. Period," Biden said. "Governor Romney and Congressman [Paul] Ryan [Romney's running mate], they have made it clear they are willing to stay - 'we can leave in 2014, maybe - it depends.' It depends on what day you find these guys."

Romney, however, was expected to use the debate to attempt to score points over the Obama administration's response to an attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi on September 11, which killed four Americans including an ambassador. The White House first said the attack came in reaction to a video made in the US that poked fun at the Prophet Muhammed. It then said its was an act of terrorism to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

While whoever does well at the debate is bound to help his cause, foreign policy is not the driving force in this campaign, with the polls showing that American voters are much more concerned about the economy.

A Reuters/Ipsos online daily tracking poll released on Monday gave both President Obama and Romney 46 percent support. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls released on Sunday also had the two candidates in a dead heat – at 47 percent support.

pfd/sej (Reuters, AFP)