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EX-GENERAL CALLS SDI VITAL IN PREVENTING NUCLEAR WAR

SHARE EX-GENERAL CALLS SDI VITAL IN PREVENTING NUCLEAR WAR

The U.S. anti-missile program "is destined to play a major role" in preventing a nuclear war even as the superpowers prepare to slash their weapons arsenals, a senior presidential adviser said Tuesday.

The Strategic Defense Initiative, known popularly as "Star Wars," has been under attack by arms control experts as farfetched ever since it was unveiled by former President Ronald Reagan.But Edward L. Rowny, a retired Army general who advised Reagan and now President Bush on arms control, challenged those critics as "wizards of Armageddon."

In a speech to a defense association, Rowny said the critics foolishly rely on an outmoded approach to deter Soviet nuclear attack.

That doctrine, known as MAD, for mutually assured destruction, is based on the theory that a potential aggressor would not launch a first strike if its lack of a defense exposed itself to massive retaliation.

Rowny said the technology of SDI offers a better guarantee against Soviet or accidental nuclear attack. It would use nuclear weapons and other advanced technology to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles aimed at the United States.

Bush is asking Congress to boost research spending on SDI by $1 billion to $4.1 billion.

In the meantime, the United States and the Soviet Union are moving closer to treaties to reduce their long-range nuclear weapons and their arsenals of tanks and other conventional arms in Europe.

Rowny said a strategic defense gradually becomes more critical as these weapons are scaled down. He called SDI an insurance policy for a treaty to cut long-range missiles by 30 to 50 percent.