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Bush likely to back weapons in space

Julian Borger

American Air Force campaign for "Rods from God" may trigger global arms race

WASHINGTON: U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to issue a directive in the next few weeks giving the U.S. air force a green light for the development of space weapons, potentially triggering a new global arms race, it was reported on Wednesday.

The new weapons being studied range from hunter-killer satellites to orbiting weapons using lasers, radio waves, or even dense metal tubes dropped from space by a weapon known as ``Rods from God'' on ground targets.

The national security directive on space has been sought by the air force since last year. The New York Times on Wednesday quoted a senior administration official as saying a decision is expected within weeks. Neither the air force nor the White House returned calls seeking comment.

Signal shift

The directive will replace a 1996 directive signed by Bill Clinton which was vaguely worded but which emphasised the peaceful use of space, in line with almost unanimous global opinion. Plans for potential space weapons were vetoed by the Clinton White House.

Space warfare experts said they expected the Bush administration directive to be similarly vague but also to signal a shift in attitude towards exploring ways of affirming U.S. dominance in space militarily.

``Up to now, this has been a campaign by the air force to have the freedom to do what they want to do in space,'' said Theresa Hitchens, vice-president of the Centre for Defence Information.

``This will, for the first time in U.S. history, will give them the go-ahead.'' Ms. Hitchens argued the directive would trigger an arms race in space.

``Let's think of a world where U.S. has "death stars" that are going over countries. Do you think other countries are going to accept that?'' she said. —

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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