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N-ARMS POLICY DROPPED BY BRITISH LABOR

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In a major policy reversal, the opposition Labor Party is dropping its once-cherished policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament.

The new policy, stipulating that a Labor-led government would give up Britain's nuclear weapons only in a negotiated arms deal, was virtually certain of adoption in Monday's vote by delegates gathered in the southern resort of Brighton for the party's annual conference.Ditching the non-nuclear doctrine, which has been a key factor in Labor's successive defeats by Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher since losing power in 1979, is part of a major policy overhaul.

The new platform, aimed at shifting the socialist movement to the center, is to be voted on in debates through the weeklong conference.

Labor leader Neil Kinnock, his party leading the Conservatives in opinion polls for the past four months, was confident of avoiding a left-wing rebellion. He has secured support from most of the trade union leaders who control 90 percent of the voting power at the party's conferences.

In the latest polls published Sunday, five soundings commissioned by national weekly newspapers showed Labor between five and 12 points ahead of the Conservatives.

Britain's biggest trade union, the Transport and General Workers' Union, has rejected the new defense policy, but its leader, Ron Todd, said he was resigned to a yes-vote.

"You won't find me barnstorming the country with the minority view," Todd said Sunday.

Under the new policy, Labor would retain Britain's submarine-launched Polaris nuclear missiles and also drop its previous pledge to shut down U.S. nuclear bases.

The policy also calls for a Labor-led government to stick with Thatcher's decision to replace Polaris in the early 1990s with the far more powerful U.S. Trident missile system.

Party moderates have long said the non-nuclear policy, adopted in 1981, invited electoral defeat.