Republican presidential candidate John McCain will attend the first presidential debate as scheduled on Friday night, said McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers in statement.

McCain had for two days refused to commit to attending the debate, scheduled for 9 p.m. ET, after partisan wrangling held up a proposed $700-billion US bailout plan of the U.S. financial system.

With less than 10 hours until the debate was scheduled to start, the McCain campaign announced that the Arizona senator would travel to the University of Mississippi, where the now highly anticipated debate is to be held.

His campaign said McCain would fly back to Washington after the debate to continue working on the plan, in which the government would buy toxic mortgage-backed assets from beleaguered financial institutions.

McCain had earlier proposed the debate be delayed until an agreement on the plan had been reached, and made no indication early Friday what his plans were.

But as the day progressed, it became increasingly likely that he would attend. Spokespeople for McCain said earlier Friday that he was looking for some kind of "progress" in the bailout talks before committing his participation, said the CBC's Alison Smith from Washington, D.C.

"That's probably a step closer to the debate than yesterday when he said there had to be a deal," she said.

Democratic nominee Barack Obama pressed McCain on Thursday to attend the debate, saying Americans needed to hear from both candidates about how they plan to lead.

"Senator McCain has no need to be fearful about a debate," Obama told reporters. "He's a person of strong opinions and he's been expressing them on the campaign trail."

White House meeting yields no agreement

Both Obama and McCain attended a White House meeting on Thursday with congressional leaders and President George W. Bush aimed at finding common ground over details of the plan.

McCain would not commit to supporting a plan worked out by congressional negotiators, said people from both parties who were briefed on the exchange.

McCain's campaign said the meeting "devolved into a contentious shouting match."

Those who attended the meeting said McCain only vaguely indicated where he stood on the issue, reported the New York Times on Friday.

But what may be more crucial to the impasse is that core Republicans are reluctant to indicate their support to a plan that involves using vast amounts of taxpayer money to bail out failed financial institutions, said Smith.

"They want more guarantees. They want more assurances that taxpayers' dollars are going to be taken care of — perhaps some kind of insurance or payback," said Smith.

"That seems to be the sticking point."

Negotiations resumed Friday.

With files from the Associated Press