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U.N. to Vote on Nuclear Test Ban; Only India, Pakistan to Dissent

By John M. Goshko
The Washington Post

The General Assembly began a special meeting Monday that is expected to end with an overwhelming majority of the U.N.'s 185 member states voting to support a worldwide ban on nuclear test blasts.

Despite the shadow cast over the proceedings by opposition from India and Pakistan, both undeclared nuclear powers, delegates pushed ahead on what many describe as a giant step toward universal nuclear disarmament.

The Indian and Pakistani positions mean the treaty will have only limited applicability for at least the immediate future. But the test ban accord has the support of the world's principal nuclear powers, and they are expected to respect it once it is approved, according to delegates and legal experts.

In addition, supporters of the treaty believe that a heavy vote for the treaty will put pressure on India to tacitly abide by the ban and eventually to approve it. Diplomats here believe that at least 120 of the more than 160 participating countries will vote in favor, possibly on Tuesday or Wednesday.

India, which has had a clandestine nuclear program since 1974, said Monday it will block the proposed test-ban treaty from coming into force by refusing to sign it. India sought to kill the treaty last month by vetoing it in a Geneva disarmament conference, and it has been kept alive only because its backers resorted to the never-before-used tactic of bringing it before the General Assembly without the approval of the Geneva Conference.

In an unexpected further jolt, Pakistan, which had indicated earlier it would support the treaty, reversed course Monday and said it, too, would not sign as long as its unfriendly neighbor, India, withheld its signature. Pakistan also is a country whose approval is necessary to bring the treaty into force.

But the five principal nuclear powers - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - support the treaty. Israel, which is an undeclared nuclear power like India and Pakistan, also has said it will approve the pact.

The proposed pact, formally known as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, calls for outlawing all nuclear explosions for the first time ever. If the treaty is approved, President Clinton is expected to give it further international acceptance by signing it on behalf of the United States when he visits the United Nations on Sept. 24.