Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Tuesday sought to cool a dispute over race and civil rights that has soured their battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Both candidates issued conciliatory statements about each other's commitment to civil rights as tensions over the issue threatened to damage both campaigns. The rival senators had been sucked into an escalating war of words over race since Mrs Clinton said last week that Martin Luther King's "dream" of racial equality began to be realised only after President Lyndon Johnson pushed through civil rights legislation in 1964.
The comment was part of her argument that strong and experienced leadership is necessary in Washington to bring about change.
But some African-American leaders viewed the remarks as a slight against King's role in the civil rights movement and an exaggeration of the contribution made by white politicians in Washington .
Mr Obama described the comments as "unfortunate" and "ill-advised", sparking accusations from the Clinton camp that he was seeking to stir racial tensions for political gain. Mrs Clinton then sought to draw a line under the dispute when she called for Democrats to find "common ground" on race.
"When it comes to civil rights and our commitment to diversity, when it comes to our heroes - President John F. Kennedy and Dr King - Senator Obama and I are on the same side," she said in a statement.
The dispute had threatened to damage Mrs Clinton's reputation among African-American voters ahead of next week's Democratic primary in South Carolina, where about 40 per cent of the party's support base is black.
But racial tensions are also perilous for Mr Obama, whose popularity stems in large part from his message of racial and political unity. Some Obama supporters suspect Mrs Clinton of focusing on race to identify her rival with black issues and weaken his appeal among white voters.
Polls show support for Mr Obama surging among African-Americans since his victory in the Iowa caucuses earlier this month.
Mr Obama indicated that he too wanted a truce, telling reporters in Nevada, which holds caucuses on Saturday, that the campaign "shouldn't be personal".
"Bill and Hillary Clinton have historically and consistently been on the right side of the civil rights movement," he said.