US pulls a switch at space parley

Reversing its earlier position, the United States put its name to a document that calls for action to prevent an arms race in outer space, Monitor contributor Peter Marsh reports. The document was the result of the two-week UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Use of Outer Space, which ended here Sunday.

At the beginning of the conference the US said it did not want militarization on the agenda, as the meeting was mainly about peaceful applications. But pressure from many of the 93 other countries, particularly those from the third world, forced its change of stance.

The Soviet Union, the other major developer of military space hardware, had earlier indicated it was willing to agree to some wording on the arms race in space.

The conference finally adopted a resolution that said ''all nations, in particular those with major space capabilities, are urged to contribute actively to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space.'' It further urged countries to observe the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty banning nuclear weapons from space. But the treaty does nothing to prevent putting into orbit laser weapons and explosive devices that could destroy military communications satellites. Such weapons are the major examples of the space hardware with which the US and USSR have recently been experimenting.

James Beggs, NASA administrator and head of the American delegation, would not comment on whether consultations took place with President Reagan before the US went along with the majority on the militarization issue.

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