WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Election Commission unanimously told its auditors Wednesday to reduce the amount Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole could be asked to repay if his campaign is found to have exceeded spending limits during the 1996 campaign.

Auditors had counted Republican Party ads in support of Dole as general election expenditures, which require a dollar-for-dollar payback. But the six-member FEC said those ads ran during the primary season, where the payback is much smaller.

As a result, Dole's potential liability would be reduced by $11.6 million, from $17.7 million to $6.1 million. The auditors also have recommended that President Clinton's campaign repay $7 million, counting the Democratic ads against the primary spending limit.

At least three of the commission's six members _ enough to block any action _ have indicated they may reject the auditors' recommendations. The commission, which is scheduled to resume discussions Thursday, has yet to take a vote on the recommendations. The campaign can challenge whatever decision the commissioners make.