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Christopher Optimistic On Test Ban

Geneva, March 18 - (RFE/RL) - The U.S. is optimistic that negotiations on a global nuclear test ban can be completed this year.

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher made the statement at a press conference today following talks with representatives of the five nuclear powers taking part in the Geneva Disarmament Conference.

Christopher said he had good discussions with China's Ambassador Sha Zukang and Russian Ambassador Grigory Berdennikov.

He said they, as well as the ambassadors of France and Britain, assured him of their countries commitment to concluding a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

Christopher said he found "a seriousness and determination" to come to agreement on the language of the treaty and that this is encouraging.

A senior U.S. official (unnamed) told reporters that the U.S. and Russia still differ over the text of the scope of the treaty and that the U.S. wants unambiguous language clearly banning all nuclear tests anytime and anywhere.

The U.S. is also trying to persuade China to withdraw its position that nuclear testing for peaceful purposes can be allowed.

The official says the U.S. does not believe it is possible to distinguish between military and civil purposes of nuclear testing.

Christopher also met separately with representatives of non-aligned countries, including India and Pakistan. He said he asked them not to try and link the comprehensive test ban treaty to a timetable for complete nuclear disarmament.

"That would be counterproductive," Christopher said.