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Senate candidates agree to debates

ST. PAUL - Candidates in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race will debate five times before the Nov. 4 election.

Democrat Al Franken, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley agreed Friday to two debates in Greater Minnesota - in Duluth and Rochester - and three in the Twin Cities area.

Indicating the fragility of the agreement, the campaigns issued the same short statement in announcing the debates. Their deal stipulates that no other debate invitations will be granted. Often, interest groups, media outlets and civic organizations propose additional debates.

"The three campaigns acknowledge that, to reach agreement, each campaign made compromises in good faith regarding the number, venues and formats of the debates," according to the statement.

The debates will be:

-- Sunday, Oct. 5, Rochester

-- Saturday, Oct. 11, Duluth

-- Thursday, Oct. 16, Twin Cities area

-- Friday, Oct. 24, St. Paul

-- Sunday, Nov. 2, St. Paul

In the first three debates, candidates will be limited to two-minute answers and one minute for rebuttal, "to promote substantive answers," the agreement said. Those debates will be sponsored by the nonpartisan Debate Minnesota organization. KARE-11 TV will co-sponsor the third debate.

The fourth debate will take place on Twin Cities Public Television's "Almanac" public affairs show. The final debate will be at the Fitzgerald Theater and sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio.

Specific debate times and locations for the first three debates were not released Friday.

Top campaign officials had been negotiating debate terms for days. At a news conference Friday before the schedule was released, Franken said he believed discussions involved anywhere from four to six debates.

The candidates already have shared a stage to talk issues. They participated in a forum last month at the FarmFest agriculture trade show in southwestern Minnesota.