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Panel: Rejecting Nuke Ban A Mistake

A nuclear test-ban treaty rejected by the Senate in 1999 would have enhanced U.S. national security, even if some countries tried to cheat, a National Academy of Sciences panel concluded in a report released Wednesday.

The report rejected the main criticisms of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: That the United States needs to have periodic tests to maintain its nuclear arsenal and that the treaty would do nothing to curb the nuclear ambitions of rogue states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

"The worst-case scenario under a no-CTBT regime poses far bigger threats to U.S. security -- sophisticated nuclear weapons in the hands of many more adversaries -- than the worst-case scenario of clandestine testing in a CTBT regime," the report said.

The United States does not need to perform nuclear explosion tests to safely and reliably maintain its nuclear arsenal, the report concluded. And international monitoring systems are so sophisticated that it would be very difficult for countries to perform such tests without having them detected.

The 51 Republican senators who voted against the treaty three years ago argued that ratifying it would have threatened national security by closing off U.S. options to test. President Bush, who opposed the treaty, has pledged to continue long-standing U.S. policy not to conduct nuclear tests.

The State Department commissioned the National Academy of Sciences report on the test ban issue in 2000, but the report's publication was delayed until Wednesday so it could be declassified and reviewed by outside experts.

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