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Nonaligned nations fail to agree on nuclear nonproliferation treaty


UNITED NATIONS -- Halfway into a monthlong conference called to review a treaty barring the spread of nuclear weapons, leading developing nations have failed to agree on a common strategy for seeking faster disarmament and other concessions by the nuclear powers.

The 111-member Nonaligned Movement, made up mostly of developing nations, had been expected to press for a secret ballot on the future of the 25-year-old Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. A secret ballot on the treaty's future is strongly opposed by the industrial nations.

But the movement, at a meeting last week in Bandung, Indonesia, produced a final document stripped of earlier demands for a secret ballot.

Also gone was a call for rolling 25-year extensions rather than a permanent renewal of the accord.

The nations with nuclear weapons -- the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia -- generally favor an indefinite and unconditional extension of the treaty, although China has said it could accept automatic 25-year renewals.

Two of the treaty's original negotiators, George Bunn of the United States and Dr. Roland M. Timerbaev of the Soviet Union, who are attending the treaty conference as observers for nongovernmental organizations, said Friday that they favored the 25-year renewal plan.

Such extensions, they reason, would provide greater leverage for prodding nuclear weapons nations into more rapid disarmament and an agreement to end nuclear testing.

Nations without nuclear programs also want greater sharing of technology -- not only in atomic energy but in areas such as nuclear medicine and agricultural techniques that could speed development.

It is a pressing issue, since such technology transfers, urged by Article IV of the treaty, lie at the heart of Washington's disputes with Russia and China over the supply of reactors and other equipment to Iran.

The Clinton administration says it fears that the reactors will produce fuel for bombs.

But the Iranians point out that they have signed the treaty and agreed to inspections of nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The attitude of the developing countries matters to the nuclear powers because 178 nations have signed the treaty, and numbers are important in the final vote.

At the end of the week, the independent Campaign for the Nonproliferation Treaty counted at least 103 definite "yes" votes, with more than a dozen almost certain to join.

That is a healthy majority if the nuclear nations prevail in establishing that a simple majority is all that is needed.

A debate over the procedures for voting on the treaty is expected to consume much of the next week.

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